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S Takahashi, M Hakuta, K Aiba, Y Ito, N Horikoshi, M Miura, K Hatake, and E Ogata

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related protein/peptide (PTHrP) bind to the same PTH/PTHrP receptor and stimulate osteoblasts to secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleukin (IL)-6. In patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, elevation of plasma levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and IL-6 was also described. We, therefore, postulated that PTHrP secreted from cancer cells stimulates the secretion of cytokines and causes increases in their blood levels. Blood concentrations of several cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-11 and IL-12) in cancer-bearing patients with or without elevation of blood PTHrP were measured by ELISA. The patients with high plasma PTHrP levels (n=29, intact PTHrP: 8.5 +/- 1.4 pmol/l, normal: <1.1) had higher serum type 1 collagen C-telopeptide (ICTP). Twenty of the patients were hypercalcemic. Plasma concentrations of TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-8 were significantly increased in patients with high PTHrP, in either the presence or absence of hypercalcemia. The concentrations of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were also significantly correlated with those of PTHrP. Our observations indicate that high plasma levels of PTHrP in cancer-bearing patients contribute not only to the development of hypercalcemia, but also to the development of the syndrome caused by an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

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Rachel S van Leeuwaarde, Joanne M de Laat, Carolina R C Pieterman, Koen Dreijerink, Menno R Vriens, and Gerlof D Valk

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 is a rare autosomal inherited disorder associated with a high risk for patients to simultaneously develop tumors of the parathyroid glands, duodenopancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and tumors of the anterior pituitary gland. Early identification of MEN1 in patients enables presymptomatic screening of manifestations, which makes timely interventions possible with the intention to prevent morbidity and mortality. Causes of death nowadays have shifted toward local or metastatic progression of malignant neuroendocrine tumors. In early cohorts, complications like peptic ulcers in gastrinoma, renal failure in hyperparathyroidism, hypoglycemia and acute hypercalcemia were the primary causes of early mortality. Improved medical treatments of these complications led to a significantly improved life expectancy. The MEN1 landscape is still evolving, considering the finding of breast cancer as a new MEN1-related manifestation and ongoing publications on follow-up and medical care for patients with MEN1. This review aims at summarizing the most recent insights into the follow-up and medical care for patients with MEN1 and identifying the gaps for future research.

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Anna Angelousi, Krystallenia I Alexandraki, George Kyriakopoulos, Marina Tsoli, Dimitrios Thomas, Gregory Kaltsas, and Ashley Grossman

Endocrine organs are metastatic targets for several primary cancers, either through direct extension from nearby tumour cells or dissemination via the venous, arterial and lymphatic routes. Although any endocrine tissue can be affected, most clinically relevant metastases involve the pituitary and adrenal glands with the commonest manifestations being diabetes insipidus and adrenal insufficiency respectively. The most common primary tumours metastasing to the adrenals include melanomas, breast and lung carcinomas, which may lead to adrenal insufficiency in the presence of bilateral adrenal involvement. Breast and lung cancers are the most common primaries metastasing to the pituitary, leading to pituitary dysfunction in approximately 30% of cases. The thyroid gland can be affected by renal, colorectal, lung and breast carcinomas, and melanomas, but has rarely been associated with thyroid dysfunction. Pancreatic metastasis can lead to exo-/endocrine insufficiency with renal carcinoma being the most common primary. Most parathyroid metastases originate from breast and lung carcinomas and melanoma. Breast and colorectal cancers are the most frequent ovarian metastases; prostate cancer commonly affects the testes. In the presence of endocrine deficiencies, glucocorticoid replacement for adrenal and pituitary involvement can be life saving. As most metastases to endocrine organs develop in the context of disseminated disease, surgical resection or other local therapies should only be considered to ameliorate symptoms and reduce tumour volume. Although few consensus statements can be made regarding the management of metastases to endocrine tissues because of the heterogeneity of the variable therapies, it is important that clinicians are aware of their presence in diagnosis.

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Chiara Verdelli, Irene Forno, Annamaria Morotti, Pasquale Creo, Vito Guarnieri, Alfredo Scillitani, Filomena Cetani, Leonardo Vicentini, Gianni Balza, Edoardo Beretta, Stefano Ferrero, Valentina Vaira, and Sabrina Corbetta

Parathyroid tumors deregulate microRNAs belonging to the two clusters on the chromosome 19, the C19MC and miR-371-373 clusters. Here, we report that the embryonic miR-372 is aberrantly expressed in half of parathyroid adenomas (PAds) in most of atypical adenomas and carcinomas (n = 15). Through in situ hybridization, we identified that miR-372-positive parathyroid tumor cells were scattered throughout the tumor parenchyma. In PAd-derived cells, ectopic miR-372 inhibited the expression of its targets CDKN1A/p21 and LATS2 at both mRNA and protein levels. Although the viability of parathyroid cells was not affected by miR-372 overexpression, the miRNA blunted camptothecin-induced apoptosis in primary PAd-derived cultures. miR-372 overexpression in parathyroid tumor cells increased parathormone (PTH) mRNA levels, and it positively correlated in vivo with circulating PTH levels. Conversely, the parathyroid-specific genes TBX1 and GCM2 were not affected by miR-372 mimic transfection. Finally, miR-372 dampened the Wnt pathway in parathyroid tumor cells through DKK1 upregulation. In conclusion, miR-372 is a novel mechanism exploited by a subset of parathyroid tumor cells to partially decrease sensitivity to apoptosis, to increase PTH synthesis and to deregulate Wnt signaling.

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Alexander J Cole, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Deborah J Marsh

Ubiquitination has traditionally been viewed in the context of polyubiquitination that is essential for marking proteins for degradation via the proteasome. Recent discoveries have shed light on key cellular roles for monoubiquitination, including as a post-translational modification (PTM) of histones such as histone H2B. Monoubiquitination plays a significant role as one of the largest histone PTMs, alongside smaller, better-studied modifications such as methylation, acetylation and phosphorylation. Monoubiquitination of histone H2B at lysine 120 (H2Bub1) has been shown to have key roles in transcription, the DNA damage response and stem cell differentiation. The H2Bub1 enzymatic cascade involves E3 RING finger ubiquitin ligases, with the main E3 generally accepted to be the RNF20–RNF40 complex, and deubiquitinases including ubiquitin-specific protease 7 (USP7), USP22 and USP44. H2Bub1 has been shown to physically disrupt chromatin strands, fostering a more open chromatin structure accessible to transcription factors and DNA repair proteins. It also acts as a recruiting signal, actively attracting proteins with roles in transcription and DNA damage. H2Bub1 also appears to play central roles in histone cross-talk, influencing methylation events on histone H3, including H3K4 and H3K79. Most significantly, global levels of H2Bub1 are low to absent in advanced cancers including breast, colorectal, lung and parathyroid, marking H2Bub1 and the enzymes that regulate it as key molecules of interest as possible new therapeutic targets for the treatment of cancer. This review offers an overview of current knowledge regarding H2Bub1 and highlights links between dysregulation of H2Bub1-associated enzymes, stem cells and malignancy.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Ilan Shimon, Márta Korbonits, and Ashley B Grossman

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) represent a heterogeneous family of neoplasms, which may develop from different endocrine glands (such as the pituitary, the parathyroid or the neuroendocrine adrenal glands), endocrine islets (within the thyroid or pancreas) as well as from endocrine cells dispersed between exocrine cells throughout the digestive and respiratory tracts. The development of somatostatin analogues (SSA) as important diagnostic and treatment tools has revolutionised the clinical management of patients with NETs. However, although symptomatic relief and stabilisation of tumour growth for various periods of time are observed in many patients treated with SSA, tumour regression is rare. Possible mechanisms when this does occur include antagonism of local growth factor release and effects, probably including activation of tyrosine and serine–threonine phosphatases, and indirect effects via anti-angiogenesis. The development of new SSA, new drug combination therapies and chimaeric molecules should further improve the clinical management of these patients, as should a more complete understanding of their mode of action.

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Andreas Machens and Henning Dralle

Genetic association studies hinge on definite clinical case definitions of the disease of interest. This is why more penetrant mutations were overrepresented in early multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) studies, whereas less penetrant mutations went underrepresented. Enrichment of genetic association studies with advanced disease may produce a flawed understanding of disease evolution, precipitating far-reaching surgical strategies like bilateral total adrenalectomy and 4-gland parathyroidectomy in MEN2. The insight into the natural course of the disease gleaned over the past 25 years caused a paradigm shift in MEN2: from the removal of target organs at the expense of greater operative morbidity to close biochemical surveillance and targeted resection of adrenal tumors and hyperplastic parathyroid glands. The lead time provided by early identification of asymptomatic MEN2 carriers under biochemical surveillance delimits a ‘window of opportunity’, within which (i) pre-emptive total thyroidectomy alone is adequate, circumventing morbidity attendant to central node dissection; (ii) subtotal ‘tissue-sparing’ adrenalectomy is sufficient, trading the risk of steroid dependency for the risk of a second pheochromocytoma in the adrenal remnant and (iii) parathyroidectomy is limited to enlarged glands, trading the risk of postoperative hypoparathyroidism for the risk of leaving behind hyperactive parathyroid glands. Future research should delineate further the mutation-specific, age-dependent penetrance of pheochromocytoma and primary hyperparathyroidism to refine the risk-oriented approach to MEN2. The sweeping changes in the management of MEN2 since the new millenium hold the hope that death and major morbidity from this uncommon disease can be eliminated in our lifetime.

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James Koh, Joyce A Hogue, Sanziana A Roman, Randall P Scheri, Hèléne Fradin, David L Corcoran, and Julie A Sosa

The clinical presentation of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) varies widely, although the underlying mechanistic reasons for this disparity remain unknown. We recently reported that parathyroid tumors can be functionally segregated into two distinct groups on the basis of their relative responsiveness to ambient calcium, and that patients in these groups differ significantly in their likelihood of manifesting bone disability. To examine the molecular basis for this phenotypic variation in PHPT, we compared the global gene expression profiles of calcium-sensitive and calcium-resistant parathyroid tumors. RNAseq and proteomic analysis identified a candidate set of differentially expressed genes highly correlated with calcium-sensing capacity. Subsequent quantitative assessment of the expression levels of these genes in an independent cohort of parathyroid tumors confirmed that calcium-sensitive tumors cluster in a discrete transcriptional profile group. These data indicate that PHPT is not an etiologically monolithic disorder and suggest that divergent molecular mechanisms could drive the observed phenotypic differences in PHPT disease course, provenance, and outcome.

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F Cetani, E Pardi, E Ambrogini, P Viacava, S Borsari, M Lemmi, L Cianferotti, P Miccoli, A Pinchera, A Arnold, and C Marcocci

Early onset of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and multiglandular involvement suggest a familial form in which germline mutation of a PHPT-related gene(s) and a somatic event at the same locus can be often demonstrated. We investigated the involvement of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and HRPT2 genes in a 39-year-old man with recurrent PHPT. PHPT was firstly diagnosed at the age of 21 and the patient had two recurrences separated by extended periods of normocalcemia. This unusual history prompted us to investigate other family members and study the MEN1 and HRPT2 genes. An HRPT2 germline missense mutation in exon 3 (R91P) was found in the index case, which was associated with different HRPT2 somatic alterations in each of the three examined parathyroid tumors. These findings are consistent with Knudson’s ‘two hit’ concept of biallelic inactivation of classical tumor suppressor genes. Screening of 15 asymptomatic relatives was negative for the R91P germline mutation. All the three abnormal parathyroid specimens showed cystic features at histology and were negative for parafibromin immunostaining. In one specimen, diffuse parafibromin staining was evident in a rim of normal parathyroid tissue surrounding the adenomatous lesion. Our study shows that different somatic genetic events at the HRPT2 locus are responsible for the asynchronous occurrence of multiple adenomas in a patient carrying an HRPT2 germline mutation. The finding of diffuse parafibromin staining in a rim of normal parathyroid tissue, but not in the contiguous adenomatous lesion, reinforces the concept that loss of parafibromin expression is responsible for the development of parathyroid tumors in this setting.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Kate E Lines, Shani Avniel-Polak, Chas Bountra, and Rajesh V Thakker

Neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) occur usually as sporadic tumours; however, rarely, they may arise in the context of a hereditary syndrome, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterised by the combined development of pancreatic NENs (pNENs) together with parathyroid and anterior pituitary tumours. The therapeutic decision for sporadic pNENs patients is multi-disciplinary and complex: based on the grade and stage of the tumor, various options (and their combinations) are considered, such as surgical excision (either curative or for debulking aims), biological drugs (somatostatin analogues), targeted therapies (mTOR inhibitors or tyrosine kinases (TK)/receptors inhibitors), peptide receptor radioligand therapy (PRRT), chemotherapy, and liver-directed therapies. However, treatment of MEN1-related NENs’ patients is even more challenging, as these tumours are usually multifocal with co-existing foci of heterogeneous biology and malignant potential, rendering them more resistant to the conventional therapies used in their sporadic counterparts, and therefore associated with a poorer prognosis. Moreover, clinical data using standard therapeutic options in MEN1-related NENs are scarce. Recent preclinical studies have identified potentially new targeted therapeutic options for treating MEN1-associated NENs, such as epigenetic modulators, Wnt pathway-targeting β-catenin antagonists, Ras signalling modulators, Akt/mTOR signalling modulators, novel somatostatin receptors analogues, anti-angiogenic drugs, as well as MEN1 gene replacement therapy. The present review aims to summarize these novel therapeutic opportunities for NENs developing in the context of MEN1 syndrome, with an emphasis on pancreatic NENs, as they are the most frequent ones studied in MEN1-NENs models to date; moreover, due to the recent shifting nomenclature of ‘pituitary adenomas’ to ‘pituitary neuroendocrine neoplasms’, relevant data on MEN1-pituitary tumours, when appropriate, are briefly described.