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Derek Raghavan, Antoinette R Tan, E Shannon Story, Earle F Burgess, Laura Musselwhite, Edward S Kim, and Peter E Clark

Substantial management changes in endocrine-related malignancies have been required as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a draconian reduction in the screening of asymptomatic subjects, delay in planned surgery and radiotherapy for primary tumors deemed to be indolent, and dose reductions and/or delays in initiation of some systemic therapies. An added key factor has been a patient-initiated delay in the presentation because of the fear of viral infection. Patterns of clinical consultation have changed, including a greater level of virtual visits, physical spacing, masking, staffing changes to ensure a COVID-free population and significant changes in patterns of family involvement. While this has occurred to improve safety from COVID-19 infection, the implications for cancer outcomes have not yet been defined. Based on prior epidemics and financial recessions, it is likely that delayed presentation and treatment of high-grade malignancy will be associated with worse cancer outcomes. Cancer patients are also at increased risk from COVID-19 infection compared to the general population. Pandemic management strategies for patients with tumors of breast, prostate, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal gland are reviewed.

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Michael Solarski, Fabio Rotondo, William D Foulkes, John R Priest, Luis V Syro, Henriett Butz, Michael D Cusimano, and Kalman Kovacs

In this review, the importance of the DICER1 gene in the function of endocrine cells is discussed. There is conclusive evidence that DICER1 mutations play a crucial role in the development, progression, cell proliferation, therapeutic responsiveness and behavior of several endocrine tumors. We review the literature of DICER1 gene mutations in thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, pineal gland, endocrine pancreas, paragangliomas, medullary, adrenocortical, ovarian and testicular tumors. Although significant progress has been made during the last few years, much more work is needed to fully understand the significance of DICER1 mutations.

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A Perren, S Schmid, T Locher, P Saremaslani, C Bonvin, P U Heitz, and P Komminoth

The tumorigenesis of sporadic endocrine tumors is still not fully understood. Activating point mutations of the serine/threonine kinase gene BRAF located on 7q34 are found in a wide range of malignancies, with the highest frequency (66%) occurring in malignant melanomas. Melanomas are tumors of neural-crest-derived cells as are medullary thyroid carcinomas, pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. BRAF has not been examined in endocrine tumors of the diffuse neuroendocrine system or of neural-crest-derived cells.

We examined 130 endocrine tumors of the pancreas, parathyroid gland, adrenal medulla, paraganglia, lung and gastrointestinal tract as well as follicular and c-cell-derived thyroid tumors. We found a high rate of V559E mutations in papillary thyroid carcinomas (47%), one V599E mutation in a well-differentiated gastric endocrine carcinoma (malignant carcinoid), but no activating BRAF mutations in all other endocrine tumors examined. These results point towards different pathways in tumorigenesis of endocrine tumors of various localizations and only rare involvement of the MAP kinase (MAPK) pathway in a subset of malignant neuroendocrine tumors.

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N Garcia de la Torre, J A H Wass, and H E Turner

In recent decades, primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) has changed its clinical presentation from a disease with bone and renal involvement to a frequently asymptomatic disorder detected on routine biochemistry. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether patients with untreated mild asymptomatic hyperparathyroidism are at risk for other complications such as increased morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases. There are limited data on the incidence of cardiovascular abnormalities in mild pHPT. However, pHPT has been associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), valvular and myocardial calcifications, impaired vascular reactivity, alterations in cardiac conduction, impaired glucose metabolism, dyslipidaemia, and alterations in body composition. The nature of some of these associations is in question, because cure of pHPT does not lead to improvement of the cardiovascular disorder e.g. hypertension. In contrast, currently available data suggest that LVH, impaired glucose metabolism and dyslipidaemia may improve after surgery and that successful parathyroidectomy could decrease the excess mortality in patients with pHPT due to cardiovascular disease.

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C Juhlin, C Larsson, T Yakoleva, I Leibiger, B Leibiger, A Alimov, G Weber, A Höög, and A Villablanca

Inactivation of the hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumour syndrome (HPT– JT) gene, HRPT2, was recently established as a genetic mechanism in the development of parathyroid tumours. Its encoded protein parafibromin has tumour-suppressor properties that play an important role in tumour development in the parathyroids, jaws and kidneys. Inactivating HRPT2 mutations are common in HPT– JT and parathyroid carcinomas, and have been described in a few cases of parathyroid adenomas with cystic features. In this study, 46 cases of cystic parathyroid adenomas previously investigated for HRPT2 mutations were characterized with regard to MEN1 gene mutations, cyclin D1 expression and parafibromin expression. In normal tissues and cell lines, parafibromin was ubiquitously expressed. Furthermore, parafibromin was detected as a dominating nuclear and a weaker cytoplasmic signal in transfected cell lines. In the three parathyroid tumours with inactivating HRPT2 mutations parafibromin expression was not detectable, and in one of two cases with aberrantly sized parafibromin the protein was delocalized. Both high and low cyclin D1 levels were found among HRPT2-mutated and -unmutated tumours, suggesting that these events are not mutually exclusive in parathyroid tumour development. The presented data suggest that in the majority of benign parathyroid tumours the expression of parafibromin remains unaltered, while the loss of parafibromin expression is strongly indicative of gene inactivation through mutation of the HRPT2 gene.

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Yulong Li and William F Simonds

Familial syndromes of hyperparathyroidism, including multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A), and the hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor (HPT-JT), comprise 2–5% of primary hyperparathyroidism cases. Familial syndromes of hyperparathyroidism are also associated with a range of endocrine and nonendocrine tumors, including potential malignancies. Complications of the associated neoplasms are the major causes of morbidities and mortalities in these familial syndromes, e.g., parathyroid carcinoma in HPT-JT syndrome; thymic, bronchial, and enteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors in MEN1; and medullary thyroid cancer and pheochromocytoma in MEN2A. Because of the different underlying mechanisms of neoplasia, these familial tumors may have different characteristics compared with their sporadic counterparts. Large-scale clinical trials are frequently lacking due to the rarity of these diseases. With technological advances and the development of new medications, the natural history, diagnosis, and management of these syndromes are also evolving. In this article, we summarize the recent knowledge on endocrine neoplasms in three familial hyperparathyroidism syndromes, with an emphasis on disease characteristics, molecular pathogenesis, recent developments in biochemical and radiological evaluation, and expert opinions on surgical and medical therapies. Because these familial hyperparathyroidism syndromes are associated with a wide variety of tumors in different organs, this review is focused on those endocrine neoplasms with malignant potential.

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Tirtha K Das and Ross L Cagan

Twenty-five years ago, RET was identified as the primary driver of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) syndrome. MEN2 is characterized by several transformation events including pheochromocytoma, parathyroid adenoma and, especially penetrant, medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Overall, MTC is a rare but aggressive type of thyroid cancer for which no effective treatment currently exists. Surgery, radiation, radioisotope treatment and chemotherapeutics have all shown limited success, and none of these approaches have proven durable in advanced disease. Non-mammalian models that incorporate the oncogenic RET isoforms associated with MEN2 and other RET-associated diseases have been useful in delineating mechanisms underlying disease progression. These models have also identified novel targeted therapies as single agents and as combinations. These studies highlight the importance of modeling disease in the context of the whole animal, accounting for the complex interplay between tumor and normal cells in controlling disease progression as well as response to therapy. With convenient access to whole genome sequencing data from expanded thyroid cancer patient cohorts, non-mammalian models will become more complex, sophisticated and continue to complement future mammalian studies. In this review, we explore the contributions of non-mammalian models to our understanding of thyroid cancer including MTC, with a focus on Danio rerio and Drosophila melanogaster (fish and fly) models.

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Yulong Li, Jianhua Zhang, Poorni R Adikaram, James Welch, Bin Guan, Lee S Weinstein, Haobin Chen, and William F Simonds

Mutation of the CDC73 gene, which encodes parafibromin, has been linked with parathyroid cancer. However, no correlation between genotypes of germline CDC73 mutations and the risk of parathyroid cancer has been known. In this study, subjects with germline CDC73 mutations were identified from the participants of two clinical protocols at National Institutes of Health (Discovery Cohort) and from the literature (Validation Cohort). The relative risk of developing parathyroid cancer was analyzed as a function of CDC73 genotype, and the impact of representative mutations on structure of parafibromin was compared between genotype groups. A total of 419 subjects, 68 in Discovery Cohort and 351 in Validation Cohort, were included. In both cohorts, percentages of CDC73 germline mutations that predicted significant conformational disruption or loss of expression of parafibromin (referred as ‘high-impact mutations’) were significantly higher among the subjects with parathyroid cancers compared to all other subjects. The Kaplan–Meier analysis showed that high-impact mutations were associated with a 6.6-fold higher risk of parathyroid carcinoma compared to low-impact mutations, despite a similar risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism between two groups. Disruption of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of parafibromin is directly involved in predisposition to parathyroid carcinoma, since only the mutations impacting this domain were associated with an increased risk of parathyroid carcinoma. Structural analysis revealed that a conserved surface structure in the CTD is universally disrupted by the mutations affecting this domain. In conclusion, high-impact germline CDC73 mutations were found to increase risk of parathyroid carcinoma by disrupting the CTD of parafibromin.

Free access

S Corbetta, L Vicentini, S Ferrero, A Lania, G Mantovani, D Cordella, P Beck-Peccoz, and A Spada

Previous studies indicate that nuclear factor kappaB (NF-κB) transcription factor is deregulated and overexpressed in several human neoplasias. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the NF-κB pathway may be involved in parathyroid tumorigenesis. For this purpose, we determined the level of NF-κB activity, evaluated as phosphorylation of the transcription subunit p65, its modulation by specific and non-specific agents and its impact on cyclin D1 expression. Phosphorylated p65 levels present in parathyroid neoplasias (n = 13) were significantly lower than those found in normal tissues (n = 3; mean optical density (OD) 0.19 ± 0.1 vs 0.4 ± 0.1, P = 0.007), but there was no significant difference between adenomas and secondary and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1)-related hyperplasia. Conversely, MEN2A (Cys634Arg)-related parathyroid samples showed extremely high levels of phosphorylated p65 that exhibited a nuclear localization at immunohistochemistry (n = 3). Phosphorylated p65 levels negatively correlated with menin expression (r 2 = 0.42, P = 0.05). Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) caused a significant increase in phosphorylated p65 levels (183 ± 13.8% of basal) while calcium sensing receptor (CaR) agonists exerted a significant inhibition (19.2 ± 3.3% of basal). Although TNFα was poorly effective in increasing cyclin D1 expression, NF-κB blockade by the specific inhibitor BAY11-7082 reduced FCS-stimulated cyclin D1 by about 60%. Finally, the inhibitory effects of CaR and BAY11-7082 on cyclin D1 expression were not additive – by blocking NF-κB CaR activation did not induce a further reduction in cyclin D1 levels. In conclusion, the study demonstrated that in parathyroid tumors: (1) p65 phosphorylation was dramatically increased by RET constitutive activation and was negatively correlated with menin expression, (2) p65 phosphorylation was increased and reduced by TNFα and CaR agonists respectively, and (3) blockade of the NF-κB pathway caused a significant decrease in cyclin D1 expression.

Free access

Carole Guerin, Pauline Romanet, David Taieb, Thierry Brue, André Lacroix, Frederic Sebag, Anne Barlier, and Frederic Castinetti

Over the last years, the knowledge of MEN2 and non-MEN2 familial forms of pheochromocytoma (PHEO) has increased. In MEN2, PHEO is the second most frequent disease: the penetrance and age at diagnosis depend on the mutation of RET. Given the prevalence of bilateral PHEO (50% by age 50), adrenal sparing surgery, aimed at sparing a part of the adrenal cortex to avoid adrenal insufficiency, should be systematically considered in patients with bilateral PHEO. Non-MEN2 familial forms of PHEO now include more than 20 genes: however, only small phenotypic series have been reported, suggesting that phenotypic features of isolated hereditary PHEO must be better explored, and follow-up series are needed to better understand the outcome of patients carrying mutations of these genes. The first part of this review will mainly focus on these points. In the second part, a focus will be given on MEN2 and non-MEN2 familial forms of hyperparathyroidism (HPTH). Again, the management of MEN2 HPTH should be aimed at curing the disease while preserving an optimal quality of life by a tailored parathyroidectomy. The phenotypes and outcome of MEN1-, MEN4- and HRPT2-related HPTH are briefly described, with a focus on the most recent literature data and is compared with familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia.