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Cristina L Ronchi, Silviu Sbiera, Barbara Altieri, Sonja Steinhauer, Vanessa Wild, Michaela Bekteshi, Matthias Kroiss, Martin Fassnacht, and Bruno Allolio

Previous SNP array analyses have revealed genomic alterations of the Notch pathway as being the most frequent abnormality in adrenocortical tumors (ACTs). The aim of the present study was to evaluate the expression of components of Notch signaling in ACTs and to correlate them with clinical outcome. The mRNA expression of JAG1, NOTCH1, and selected target genes of NOTCH1 (HES1, HES5, and HEY2) was evaluated in 80 fresh frozen samples (28 normal adrenal glands (NAGs), 24 adenomas (ACAs), and 28 carcinomas (ACCs)) by quantitative RT-PCR. Immunohistochemistry was performed in 221 tissues on paraffin slides (16 NAGs, 27 ACAs, and 178 ACCs) for JAG1, activated NOTCH1 (aNOTCH1), and HEY2. An independent ACC validation cohort (n=77) was then also investigated. HEY2 mRNA expression was higher in ACCs than it was in ACAs (P<0.05). The protein expression of all of the factors was high (H-score 2–3) in a larger proportion of ACCs as compared to ACAs and NAGs (JAG1 in 27, 15, and 10%; aNOTCH1 in 13, 8, and 0%; HEY2 in 66, 61, and 33% respectively, all P<0.001). High JAG1 expression was associated with earlier tumor stages and lower numbers of metastases in ACCs (both P=0.08) and favorably impacted overall and progression-free survival (PFS) (131 vs 30 months, hazard ratio (HR) 0.45, and 37 vs 9 months, HR 0.51, both P<0.005). This impact on overall survival (OS) was confirmed in the validation cohort. No such association was observed for aNOTCH1 or HEY2. In conclusion, different components of the Notch1 signaling pathway are overexpressed in ACCs, which suggests a role for the pathway in malignant transformation. However, JAG1 is overexpressed in a subgroup of ACCs with a better clinical outcome.

Free access

Hongyu Chen, Dan Liu, Zhengyan Yang, Limin Sun, Que Deng, Shuo Yang, Lu Qian, Liang Guo, Ming Yu, Meiru Hu, Ming Shi, and Ning Guo

Angiogenesis is an important factor in invasive tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. Multiple proangiogenic mechanisms are involved in tumor angiogenesis. In this study, we showed that the neurotransmitter norepinephrine upregulated VEGF (VEGFA) expression in breast cancer cells and that the culture supernatant from norepinephrine-treated breast cancer cells promoted the formation of the capillary-like network of endothelial cells. However, the effects of norepinephrine were further enhanced when the endothelial cells were cocultured with breast cancer cells, indicating a critical role of tumor cell–endothelial cell contacts in norepinephrine-induced tumor angiogenesis. Interestingly, norepinephrine dramatically induced the activation of the Notch pathway, which is a cell-contact-mediated intercellular signaling pathway and tightly linked to tumor cell–stromal cell interaction and angiogenesis, in the endothelial cells that had been cocultured with breast cancer cells. Furthermore, the expression of the Notch ligand Jagged 1 was significantly upregulated by norepinephrine at both mRNA and protein levels in breast cancer cells. Inhibitors of β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR), protein kinase A (PKA), and mTOR could reverse norepinephrine-induced Jagged 1 upregulation, indicating that the β2-AR–PKA–mTOR pathway participates in this process. Knockdown of Jagged 1 expression in breast cancer cells not only repressed norepinephrine-induced activation of the Notch pathway in cocultured endothelial cells but also evidently impaired the effects of norepinephrine on capillary-like sprout formation. These data demonstrate that tumor angiogenesis mediated by the Jagged 1/Notch intercellular signaling is governed by the norepinephrine-activated β2-AR–PKA–mTOR pathway.

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Y Capodanno, F O Buishand, L Y Pang, J Kirpensteijn, J A Mol, and D J Argyle

Insulinomas (INS) are the most common neuroendocrine pancreatic tumours in humans and dogs. The long-term prognosis for malignant INS is still poor due to a low success rate of the current treatment modalities, particularly chemotherapy. A better understanding of the molecular processes underlying the development and progression of INS is required to develop novel targeted therapies. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be critical for the engraftment and chemoresistance of many tumours, including INS. This study was aimed to characterise and target INS CSCs in order to develop novel targeted therapies. Highly invasive and tumourigenic human and canine INS CSC-like cells were successfully isolated. These cells expressed stem cell markers (OCT4, SOX9, SOX2, CD133 and CD34), exhibited greater resistance to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and demonstrated a more invasive and tumourigenic phenotype in vivo compared to bulk INS cells. Here, we demonstrated that Notch-signalling-related genes (NOTCH2 and HES1) were overexpressed in INS CSC-like cells. Protein analysis showed an active NOTCH2-HES1 signalling in INS cell lines, especially in cells resistant to 5-FU. Inhibition of the Notch pathway, using a gamma secretase inhibitor (GSI), enhanced the sensitivity of INS CSC-like cells to 5-FU. When used in combination GSI and 5-FU, the clonogenicity in vitro and the tumourigenicity in vivo of INS CSC-like cells were significantly reduced. These findings suggested that the combined strategy of Notch signalling inhibition and 5-FU synergistically attenuated enriched INS CSC populations, providing a rationale for future therapeutic exploitation.

Free access

Brandi B Knight, Gabriela M Oprea-Ilies, Arumugam Nagalingam, Lily Yang, Cynthia Cohen, Neeraj K Saxena, and Dipali Sharma

Obese breast cancer patients exhibit a higher risk for larger tumor burden and an increased likelyhood of metastasis. The molecular effects of obesity on carcinogenesis are mediated by the autocrine and paracrine effects of the adipocytokine leptin. Leptin participates in the tumor progression and metastasis of human breast. We show that leptin induces clonogenicity and increases the migration potential of breast cancer cells. We found that survivin expression is induced in response to leptin. In this study, we examine the role and leptin-mediated regulation of survivin. Leptin treatment leads to survivin upregulation, due in part to the activation of Notch1 and the release of a transcriptionally active Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD). Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis shows that NICD gets recruited to the survivin promoter at the CSL (CBF1/RBP-Jk, Su(H), Lag-1) binding site in response to leptin treatment. Inhibition of Notch1 activity inhibits leptin-induced survivin upregulation. Leptin-induced transactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in leptin-mediated Notch1 and survivin upregulation, demonstrating a novel upstream role of leptin–EGFR–Notch1 axis. We further show that leptin-induced migration of breast cancer cells requires survivin, as overexpression of survivin further increases, whereas silencing survivin abrogates leptin-induced migration. Using a pharmacological approach to inhibit survivin, we show that 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme-A-reductase inhibitors, such as lovastatin, can effectively inhibit leptin-induced survivin expression and migration. Importantly, leptin increased breast tumor growth in nude mice. These data show a novel role for survivin in leptin-induced migration and put forth pharmacological survivin inhibition as a potential novel therapeutic strategy. This conclusion is supported by in vivo data showing the overexpression of leptin and survivin in epithelial cells of high-grade ductal carcinomas in situ and in high-grade invasive carcinomas.

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A Raitila, M Georgitsi, A Karhu, K Tuppurainen, M J Mäkinen, K Birkenkamp-Demtröder, K Salmenkivi, T F Ørntoft, J Arola, V Launonen, P Vahteristo, and L A Aaltonen

Germline mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene were recently observed in patients with pituitary adenoma predisposition (PAP). Though AIP mutation-positive individuals with prolactin-, mixed growth hormone/prolactin-, and ACTH-producing pituitary adenomas as well as non-secreting pituitary adenomas have been reported, most mutation-positive patients have had growth hormone-producing adenomas diagnosed at relatively young age. Pituitary adenomas are also component tumors of some familial endocrine neoplasia syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and Carney complex (CNC). Genes underlying MEN1 and CNC are rarely mutated in sporadic pituitary adenomas, but more often in other lesions contributing to these two syndromes. Thus far, the occurrence of somatic AIP mutations has not been studied in endocrine tumors other than pituitary adenomas. Here, we have analyzed 32 pituitary adenomas and 79 other tumors of the endocrine system for somatic AIP mutations by direct sequencing. No somatic mutations were identified. However, two out of nine patients with prolactin-producing adenoma were shown to harbor a Finnish founder mutation (Q14X) with a complete loss of the wild-type allele in the tumors. These results are in agreement with previous studies in that prolactin-producing adenomas are component tumors in PAP. The data also support the previous finding that somatic AIP mutations are not common in pituitary adenomas and suggest that such mutations are rare in other endocrine tumors as well.

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J S Jenkins

INTRODUCTION Primary tumours of the pituitary gland are, with rare exceptions, adenomas arising from the adenohypophysial cells and they account for about 10% of clinically treated intracranial tumours. They can be characterized histologically by immunocytochemical staining and they often result in the excessive secretion of one or more hormones, giving rise to particular clinical disorders. It also appears that small, clinically unrecognized pituitary tumours are very common, since the incidence of solitary adenomas in unselected postmortem examinations is as great as 27%, of which 41% stain for prolactin (Costello 1936, Burrow et al. 1981). The largest group of clinically hypersecretory adenomas are prolactin-secreting tumours, many of which are microadenomas (i.e. <10 mm when they are detected), followed by somatotrophic and then corticotrophic tumours. Gonadotrophic tumours with hypersecretion which is clinically apparent are uncommon, and thyrotrophic adenomas are rare (Smallridge 1987), amounting to 0.2% in one large surgical series (Wilson 1984).
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I Számel, B Budai, K Daubner, J Kralovánszky, Sz Ottó, J Tóth, and I Besznyák


Gross cystic disease (GCD) of the breast may be associated with a higher risk for the development of breast cancer. High levels of sex steroids, steroid hormone precursors, prolactin and cations have been found in breast cyst fluid (BCF) by several investigators. Accordingly, endocrine parameters and the cationic composition of BCF may be considered as useful characteristics to follow patients bearing macrocysts. In this study we have investigated the concentrations of estradiol (E2), progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHA) and DHA-3-sulfate (DHA-S), prolactin, potassium (K+) and sodium (Na+) in BCF aspirated from 99 women. The mean age of the patients was 49.8 years (range 32-58). The hormone levels were measured by RIA methods; K+ and Na+ were determined by flame photometry. Estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHA, DHA-S, prolactin and K+ showed significant accumulation in the BCF compared with their respective serum values. The K+/Na+ ratio proved to be useful in dividing cysts into type I (≥1), type II (<1 but ≥0.1) and type III (<0.1) subgroups. For type I BCF, higher DHA, DHA-S and prolactin concentrations were detected. Linear regression analysis established a highly significant (P<0.001) correlation between the concentrations of E2 and DHA-S (r=0.686), and also between testosterone and DHA-S (r=0.711). These findings indicate that type I BCF might be a marker for 'active' GCD of the breast, and suggest that it may be associated with an increased breast cancer risk, since this group of patients is supposed to have cysts with apocrine metaplasia. It is suggested therefore that when BCF is aspirated, sex steroids, steroid precursors and cations should be routinely measured, and women with type I cysts should be regularly examined.

Free access

M Principe, M Chanal, V Karam, A Wierinckx, I Mikaélian, R Gadet, C Auger, V Raverot, E Jouanneau, A Vasiljevic, A Hennino, G Raverot, and P Bertolino

Prolactinoma represents the most frequent hormone-secreting pituitary tumours. These tumours appear in a benign form, but some of them can reach an invasive and aggressive stage through an unknown mechanism. Discovering markers to identify prolactinoma proliferative and invading character is therefore crucial to develop new diagnostic/prognostic strategies. Interestingly, members of the TGFβ-Activin/BMP signalling pathways have emerged as important actors of pituitary development and adult function, but their role in prolactinomas remains to be precisely determined. Here, using a heterotopic allograft model derived from a rat prolactinoma, we report that the Activins orphan type I receptor ALK7 is ectopically expressed in prolactinomas-cells. Through immunohistological approaches, we further confirm that normal prolactin-producing cells lack ALK7-expression. Using a series of human tumour samples, we show that ALK7 expression in prolactinomas cells is evolutionary conserved between rat and human. More interestingly, our results highlight that tumours showing a robust expression of ALK7 present an increased proliferation as address by Ki67 expression and retrospective analysis of clinical data from 38 patients, presenting ALK7 as an appealing marker of prolactinoma aggressiveness. Beside this observation, our work pinpoints that the expression of prolactin is highly heterogeneous in prolactinoma cells. We further confirm the contribution of ALK7 in these observations and the existence of highly immunoreactive prolactin cells lacking ALK7 expression. Taken together, our observations suggest that Activin signalling mediated through ALK7 could therefore contribute to the hormonal heterogeneity and increased proliferation of prolactinomas.

Free access

Antonella Verrienti, Giovanni Tallini, Chiara Colato, Amélie Boichard, Saula Checquolo, Valeria Pecce, Marialuisa Sponziello, Francesca Rosignolo, Dario de Biase, Kerry Rhoden, Gian Piero Casadei, Diego Russo, Michela Visani, Giorgia Acquaviva, Marco Ferdeghini, Sebastiano Filetti, and Cosimo Durante

Advanced medullary thyroid cancers (MTCs) are now being treated with drugs that inhibit receptor tyrosine kinases, many of which involved in angiogenesis. Response rates vary widely, and toxic effects are common, so treatment should be reserved for MTCs likely to be responsive to these drugs. RET mutations are common in MTCs, but it is unclear how they influence the microvascularization of these tumors. We examined 45 MTCs with germ-line or somatic RET mutations (RETmut group) and 34 with wild-type RET (RETwt). Taqman Low-Density Arrays were used to assess proangiogenic gene expression. Immunohistochemistry was used to assess intratumoral, peritumoral and nontumoral expression levels of VEGFR1, R2, R3, PDGFRa, PDGFB and NOTCH3. We also assessed microvessel density (MVD) and lymphatic vessel density (LVD) based on CD31-positive and podoplanin-positive vessel counts, respectively, and vascular pericyte density based on staining for a-smooth muscle actin (a-SMA), a pericyte marker. Compared with RETwt tumors, RETmut tumors exhibited upregulated expression of proangiogenic genes (mRNA and protein), especially VEGFR1, PDGFB and NOTCH3. MVDs and LVDs were similar in the two groups. However, microvessels in RETmut tumors were more likely to be a-SMA positive, indicating enhanced coverage by pericytes, which play key roles in vessel sprouting, maturation and stabilization. These data suggest that angiogenesis in RETmut MTCs may be more intense and complete than that found in RETwt tumors, a feature that might increase their susceptibility to antiangiogenic therapy. Given their increased vascular pericyte density, RETmut MTCs might also benefit from combined or preliminary treatment with PDGF inhibitors.

Free access

Luca Morandi, Alberto Righi, Francesca Maletta, Paola Rucci, Fabio Pagni, Marco Gallo, Sabrina Rossi, Leonardo Caporali, Anna Sapino, Ricardo V Lloyd, and Sofia Asioli

Hobnail variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (HPTC) represents a recently described, aggressive and rare group of thyroid tumors with poorly understood pathogenesis. Molecular data about this group of cancers are few, and a more detailed molecular characterization of these tumors is needed. The main objective of the study is to define a comprehensive molecular typing of HPTC. Eighteen patients affected by HPTC, including eighteen primary tumors and four lymph node metastases, were screened for NRAS, KRAS, HRAS, BRAF, TP53, PIK3CA, hTERT, PTEN, CDKN2A, EGFR, AKT1, CTNNB1 and NOTCH1 gene mutations. Sequencing is conducted on the MiSEQ system, and molecular data are compared with clinical-pathologic data and follow-up. The patients include 14 women and 4 men. Ages range from 23 to 87 years. All 18 primary tumors of HPTC showed ≥30% hobnail features. BRAF and TP53 mutations are by far the most common genetic alterations in primary HPTC (72.2% and 55.6%, respectively), followed by hTERT (44.4%), PIK3CA (27.8%), CTNNB1 (16.7%), EGFR (11.1%), AKT1 (5.5%) and NOTCH1 (5.5%). The mutational pattern in primary tumors and metastasis was usually maintained. Univariate Cox regression analyses with bootstrap procedure indicated a significantly increased mortality risk in patients harboring BRAF mutation and BRAF mutation associated with TP53 and/or PIK3CA mutations. The detection of these multiple mutations appears to allow the identification of a subset of more aggressive tumors within the group and to bear information that should be useful for prognostic stratification of these patients including the planning of adjuvant therapy.