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Yu-fang Bi, Rui-xin Liu, Lei Ye, Hai Fang, Xiao-ying Li, Wei-qing Wang, Ji Zhang, Kan-Kan Wang, Lei Jiang, Ting-wei Su, Zhong-yuan Chen, and Guang Ning

Although there has been increased knowledge about the molecular biology of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), little is known about thymic carcinoids and even less about those with excessive hormone disorders, such as ectopic ACTH syndrome. This study was designed to gain insights into the molecular networks underlying the tumorigenesis of thymic carcinoids with ACTH secretion. By an approach integrating cDNA microarray and methods of computational biology, we compare gene expression profile between ACTH-producing thymic carcinoids and the normal thymus. In total, there are 63 biological categories increased and 108 decreased in thymic carcinoids. Cell proliferation was stimulated, which may explain the relatively uncontrolled cell growth of the tumor. Dysregulation of the Notch-signaling pathway was likely to be underlying the neuroendocrine features of this type of tumors. Moreover, inhibition of immunity and increased neuropeptide signaling molecules (POMC and its sorting molecule CPE) made the clinical manifestation reasonable and thus validated the array data. In conclusion, thymic carcinoids have a distinct gene expression pattern from the normal thymus, and they are characterized by deregulations of a series of biofunctions, which may be involved in the development of NETs. Hence, this study has provided not only a detailed comprehension of the molecular pathogenesis of thymic carcinoids with ectopic ACTH syndrome, but also a road map to approach thymic NETs at the system level.

Free access

Kari Hemminki, Asta Försti, and Jianguang Ji

Reliable data on familial risks are important for clinical counseling and cancer genetics. We wanted to study incidence trends and familial risks for pituitary adenomas and associated tumors through parental and sibling probands, using the nation-wide Swedish Family-Cancer Database on 10.5 million individuals, containing families with parents and offspring. Cancer data were retrieved from the Swedish Cancer Registry from years 1958 to 2002, including 3239 pituitary tumor patients. Familial risk for offspring was defined through standardized incidence ratio (SIR), adjusted for many variables. The incidence of pituitary adenoma has increased moderately from 1958 to the 1990s and declined thereafter. There were only three offspring–parent pairs with a concordant pituitary tumor, the SIR was not significant. Parental skin cancer (SIR 1.60) and leukemia (1.90, chronic lymphatic leukemia 2.59) were associated with offspring pituitary adenoma diagnosed at any age up to 70 years. There was a strong association of pituitary adenomas with nervous system hemangiopericytomas, SIR 182. The only significant association among siblings was between pituitary tumors and breast cancer (1.46). The risk of pituitary adenoma was marginally increased in individuals whose siblings were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The results suggest an association of pituitary adenomas with nervous system hemangiopericytomas and breast and colorectal cancers, in addition to some other tumor types. Whether these associations can be explained by the recently identified pituitary adenoma predisposing gene, AIP, remains to be established.

Free access

Maria Eugenia Sabatino, Juan Pablo Petiti, Liliana del Valle Sosa, Pablo Anibal Pérez, Silvina Gutiérrez, Carolina Leimgruber, Alexandra Latini, Alicia Inés Torres, and Ana Lucía De Paul

Although pituitary adenomas represent 25% of intracranial tumors, they are usually benign, with the mechanisms by which these tumors usually avoid an invasive profile and metastatic growth development still remaining unclear. In this context, cellular senescence might constitute a plausible explanation for the benign nature of pituitary adenomas. In this study, we investigated the emergence of cellular senescence as a growth control mechanism during the progression of estrogen-induced pituitary tumors. The quantification of Ki67-immunopositive cells in the pituitaries of estrogenized male rats after 10, 20, 40, and 60 days revealed that the mitogenic potential rate was not sustained for the whole period analyzed and successively decreased after 10 days of estrogen exposure. In addition, the expression of cellular senescence features, such as the progressive rise in the enzymatic senescence-associated b-galactosidase (SA-b-gal) activity, IL6, IL1b, and TGFb expression, was observed throughout pituitary tumor development. Furthermore, tumoral pituitary cells also displayed nuclear pATM expression, indicating activated DNA damage signaling, with a significant increase in p21 expression also being detected. The associations among DNA damage signaling activation, SA-b-gal expression, and p21 may provide a reliable combination of senescence-associated markers for in vivo pituitary senescence detection. These results suggest a role for this cellular process in the regulation of pituitary cell growth. Thus, cellular senescence should be conceived as a contributing component to the benign nature of pituitary adenomas, thereby influencing the capability of the pituitary gland to avoid unregulated cell proliferation.

Free access

A P Heaney and S Melmed

Pituitary tumors are common monoclonal neoplasms which cause considerable morbidity and mortality. Several molecular events underlying pituitary tumorigenesis have been elucidated in recent years, but no tumor marker has clearly emerged which assists clinical and therapeutic decisions. Activating mutations and loss of inactivating mutations, together with hypothalamic hormones, circulating hormones, growth factors and cytokines cooperatively ensure the inexorable expansion of the initial mutated pituitary cell clone. This review describes new developments in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of pituitary tumors. The availability of molecular probes will allow the early prediction of tumor behavior, identify targets for designing subcellular pituitary tumor therapy and provide novel approaches to pituitary tumor management.

Free access

Luis V Syro, Fabio Rotondo, Leon D Ortiz, and Kalman Kovacs

Temozolomide is an alkylating chemotherapeutic agent used in malignant neuroendocrine neoplasia, melanoma, brain metastases and an essential component of adjuvant therapy in the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme and anaplastic astrocytoma. Since 2006, it has been used for the treatment of pituitary carcinomas and aggressive pituitary adenomas. Here, we discuss the current indications and results of temozolomide therapy in pituitary tumors, as well as frequently asked questions regarding temozolomide treatment, duration of therapy, dosage, tumor recurrence and resistance.

Open access

Paraskevi Xekouki, Emily J Lodge, Jakob Matschke, Alice Santambrogio, John R Apps, Ariane Sharif, Thomas S Jacques, Simon Aylwin, Vincent Prevot, Ran Li, Jörg Flitsch, Stefan R Bornstein, Marily Theodoropoulou, and Cynthia L Andoniadou

Tumours of the anterior pituitary can manifest from all endocrine cell types but the mechanisms for determining their specification are not known. The Hippo kinase cascade is a crucial signalling pathway regulating growth and cell fate in numerous organs. There is mounting evidence implicating this in tumour formation, where it is emerging as an anti-cancer target. We previously demonstrated activity of the Hippo kinase cascade in the mouse pituitary and nuclear association of its effectors YAP/TAZ with SOX2-expressing pituitary stem cells. Here, we sought to investigate whether these components are expressed in the human pituitary and if they are deregulated in human pituitary tumours. Analysis of pathway components by immunofluorescence reveals pathway activity during normal human pituitary development and in the adult gland. Poorly differentiated pituitary tumours (null-cell adenomas, adamantinomatous craniopharyngiomas (ACPs) and papillary craniopharyngiomas (PCPs)), displayed enhanced expression of pathway effectors YAP/TAZ. In contrast, differentiated adenomas displayed lower or absent levels. Knockdown of the kinase-encoding Lats1 in GH3 rat mammosomatotropinoma cells suppressed Prl and Gh promoter activity following an increase in YAP/TAZ levels. In conclusion, we have demonstrated activity of the Hippo kinase cascade in the human pituitary and association of high YAP/TAZ with repression of the differentiated state both in vitro and in vivo. Characterisation of this pathway in pituitary tumours is of potential prognostic value, opening up putative avenues for treatments.

Free access

Maria Theresa E Montales, Stepan B Melnyk, Shi J Liu, Frank A Simmen, Y Lucy Liu, and Rosalia C M Simmen

The emerging links between breast cancer and metabolic dysfunctions brought forth by the obesity pandemic predict a disproportionate early disease onset in successive generations. Moreover, sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents may be influenced by the patient’s metabolic status that affects the disease outcome. Maternal metabolic stress as a determinant of drug response in progeny is not well defined. Here, we evaluated mammary tumor response to doxorubicin in female mouse mammary tumor virus–Wnt1 transgenic offspring exposed to a metabolically compromised environment imposed by maternal high-fat diet. Control progeny were from dams consuming diets with regular fat content. Maternal high-fat diet exposure increased tumor incidence and reduced tumor latency but did not affect tumor volume response to doxorubicin, compared with control diet exposure. However, doxorubicin-treated tumors from high-fat-diet-exposed offspring demonstrated higher proliferation status (Ki-67), mammary stem cell-associated gene expression (Notch1 , Aldh1) and basal stem cell-like (CD29hiCD24+) epithelial subpopulation frequencies, than tumors from control diet progeny. Notably, all epithelial subpopulations (CD29hiCD24+, CD29loCD24+, CD29hiCD24+Thy1+) in tumors from high-fat-diet-exposed offspring were refractory to doxorubicin. Further, sera from high-fat-diet-exposed offspring promoted sphere formation of mouse mammary tumor epithelial cells and of human MCF7 cells. Untargeted metabolomics analyses identified higher levels of kynurenine and 2-hydroxyglutarate in plasma of high-fat diet than control diet offspring. Kynurenine/doxorubicin co-treatment of MCF7 cells enhanced the ability to form mammosphere and decreased apoptosis, relative to doxorubicin-only-treated cells. Maternal metabolic dysfunctions during pregnancy and lactation may be targeted to reduce breast cancer risk and improve early drug response in progeny, and may inform clinical management of disease.

Free access

Freya Mertens, Lies Gremeaux, Jianghai Chen, Qiuli Fu, Christophe Willems, Heleen Roose, Olivier Govaere, Tania Roskams, Carolina Cristina, Damasia Becú-Villalobos, Mark Jorissen, Vincent Vander Poorten, Marie Bex, Johannes van Loon, and Hugo Vankelecom

Pituitary adenomas cause significant endocrine and mass-related morbidity. Little is known about the mechanisms that underlie pituitary tumor pathogenesis. In the present study, we searched for a side population (SP) in pituitary tumors representing cells with high efflux capacity and potentially enriched for tumor stem cells (TSCs). Human pituitary adenomas contain a SP irrespective of hormonal phenotype. This adenoma SP, as well as the purified SP (pSP) that is depleted from endothelial and immune cells, is enriched for cells that express ‘tumor stemness’ markers and signaling pathways, including epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT)-linked factors. Pituitary adenomas were found to contain self-renewing sphere-forming cells, considered to be a property of TSCs. These sphere-initiating cells were recovered in the pSP. Because benign pituitary adenomas do not grow in vitro and have failed to expand in immunodeficient mice, the pituitary tumor cell line AtT20 was further used. We identified a SP in this cell line and found it to be more tumorigenic than the non-SP ‘main population’. Of the two EMT regulatory pathways tested, the inhibition of chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 4 (CXCR4) signaling reduced EMT-associated cell motility in vitro as well as xenograft tumor growth, whereas the activation of TGFβ had no effect. The human adenoma pSP also showed upregulated expression of the pituitary stem cell marker SOX2. Pituitaries from dopamine receptor D2 knockout (Drd2 −/−) mice that bear prolactinomas contain more pSP, Sox2+, and colony-forming cells than WT glands. In conclusion, we detected a SP in pituitary tumors and identified TSC-associated characteristics. The present study adds new elements to the unraveling of pituitary tumor pathogenesis and may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.

Free access

M Theodoropoulou, I Cavallari, L Barzon, D M D'Agostino, T Ferro, T Arzberger, Y Grübler, L Schaaf, M Losa, F Fallo, V Ciminale, G K Stalla, and U Pagotto

Pituitary adenomas represent one of the key features of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1. The gene involved in this syndrome (MEN1) is a putative tumor suppressor, that codes for a 610-amino acid nuclear protein termed 'menin'. Analyses of sporadic pituitary adenomas have so far failed to reveal MEN1 mutations or defects in MEN1 transcription in these tumors. In the present study we detected menin protein expression in a panel of normal and tumoral pituitary tissues, using a monoclonal antibody against the carboxy-terminus of menin. In the normal human pituitary gland, strong nuclear staining for menin was detectable in the majority of the endocrine cells of the anterior lobe, without a clear association with a particular hormone-producing type. In sporadic pituitary adenomas, menin expression was variable, with a high percentage of cases demonstrating a significant decrease in menin immunoreactivity when compared with the normal pituitary. Interestingly, metastatic tissues derived from one pituitary carcinoma had no detectable menin levels. Altogether, our data provide the first information regarding the status of menin expression in human normal and neoplastic pituitary as determined by immunohistochemistry (IHC).

Free access

Vladimir Vasilev, Adrian F Daly, Giampaolo Trivellin, Constantine A Stratakis, Sabina Zacharieva, and Albert Beckers

Familial isolated pituitary adenoma (FIPA) is one of the most frequent conditions associated with an inherited presentation of pituitary tumors. FIPA can present with pituitary adenomas of any secretory/non-secretory type. Mutations in the gene for the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) have been identified in approximately 20% of FIPA families and are the most frequent cause (29%) of pituitary gigantism. Pituitary tumors in FIPA are larger, occur at a younger age and display more aggressive characteristics and evolution than sporadic adenomas. This aggressiveness is especially marked in FIPA kindreds with AIP mutations. Special attention should be paid to young patients with pituitary gigantism and/or macroadenomas, as AIP mutations are prevalent in these groups. Duplications on chromosome Xq26.3 involving the gene GPR101 lead to X-linked acrogigantism (X-LAG), a syndrome of pituitary gigantism beginning in early childhood; three kindreds with X-LAG have presented in the setting of FIPA. Management of pituitary adenomas in the setting of FIPA, AIP mutations and GPR101 duplications is often more complex than in sporadic disease due to early onset disease, aggressive tumor growth and resistance to medical therapy.