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Free access

E Louiset, K Isvi, J M Gasc, C Duparc, B Cauliez, A Laquerrière, J M Kuhn and H Lefebvre

Abnormal expression of membrane receptors has been previously described in benign adrenocortical neoplasms causing Cushing's syndrome. In particular, we have observed that, in some adreno corticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia tissues, cortisol secretion is controlled by ectopic serotonin7 (5-HT7) receptors. The objective of the present study was to investigate in vitro the effect of serotonin (5-hydroxy tryptamine; 5-HT) on cortisol and renin production by a left adrenocortical carcinoma removed from a 48-year-old female patient with severe Cushing's syndrome and elevated plasma renin levels. Tumor explants were obtained at surgery and processed for immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization and cell culture studies. 5-HT-like immunoreactivity was observed in mast cells and steroidogenic cells disseminated in the tissue. 5-HT stimulated cortisol release by cultured cells. The stimulatory effect of 5-HT on cortisol secretion was suppressed by the 5-HT7 receptor antagonist SB269970. In addition, immunohistochemistry showed the occurrence of 5-HT7 receptor-like immunoreactivity in carcinoma cells. mRNAs encoding renin as well as renin-like immunoreactivity were detected in endothelial and tumor cells. Cell incubation studies revealed that the adrenocortical tissue also released renin. Renin production was inhibited by 5-HT but was not influenced by ACTH and angiotensin II (Ang II). In conclusion, the present report provides the first demonstration of ectopic serotonin receptors, i.e. 5-HT7 receptors, in an adrenocortical carcinoma. Our results also indicate that 5-HT can influence the secretory activity of malignant adrenocortical tumors in an autocrine/paracrine manner. The effects of 5-HT on adrenocortical tumor cells included a paradoxical inhibitory action on renin production and a stimulatory action on cortisol secretion involving 5-HT7 receptors.

Open access

Naomi E Allen, Timothy J Key, Laure Dossus, Sabina Rinaldi, Anne Cust, Annekatrin Lukanova, Petra H Peeters, N Charlotte Onland-Moret, Petra H Lahmann, Franco Berrino, Salvatore Panico, Nerea Larrañaga, Guillem Pera, Maria-José Tormo, Maria-José Sánchez, J Ramón Quirós, Eva Ardanaz, Anne Tjønneland, Anja Olsen, Jenny Chang-Claude, Jakob Linseisen, Mandy Schulz, Heiner Boeing, Eva Lundin, Domenico Palli, Kim Overvad, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Sheila Bingham, Kay-Tee Khaw, H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Antonia Trichopoulou, Dimitiros Trichopoulos, Androniki Naska, Rosario Tumino, Elio Riboli and Rudolf Kaaks

Epidemiological data show that reproductive and hormonal factors are involved in the etiology of endometrial cancer, but there is little data on the association with endogenous sex hormone levels. We analyzed the association between prediagnostic serum concentrations of sex steroids and endometrial cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition using a nested case–control design of 247 incident endometrial cancer cases and 481 controls, matched on center, menopausal status, age, variables relating to blood collection, and, for premenopausal women, phase of menstrual cycle. Using conditional regression analysis, endometrial cancer risk among postmenopausal women was positively associated with increasing levels of total testosterone, free testosterone, estrone, total estradiol, and free estradiol. The odds ratios (ORs) for the highest versus lowest tertile were 2.66 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.50–4.72; P=0.002 for a continuous linear trend) for estrone, 2.07 (95% CI 1.20–3.60; P=0.001) for estradiol, and 1.66 (95% CI 0.98–2.82; P=0.001) for free estradiol. For total and free testosterone, ORs for the highest versus lowest tertile were 1.44 (95% CI 0.88–2.36; P=0.05) and 2.05 (95% CI 1.23–3.42; P=0.005) respectively. Androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were not associated with risk. Sex hormone-binding globulin was significantly inversely associated with risk (OR for the highest versus lowest tertile was 0.57, 95% CI 0.34–0.95; P=0.004). In premenopausal women, serum sex hormone concentrations were not clearly associated with endometrial cancer risk, but numbers were too small to draw firm conclusions. In conclusion, relatively high blood concentrations of estrogens and free testosterone are associated with an increased endometrial cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Open access

Jonathan W Nyce

We recently reported our detection of an anthropoid primate-specific, ‘kill switch’ tumor suppression system that reached its greatest expression in humans, but that is fully functional only during the first twenty-five years of life, corresponding to the primitive human lifespan that has characterized the majority of our species' existence. This tumor suppression system is based upon the kill switch being triggered in cells in which p53 has been inactivated; such kill switch consisting of a rapid, catastrophic increase in ROS caused by the induction of irreversible uncompetitive inhibition of glucose-6- phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), which requires high concentrations of both inhibitor (DHEA) and G6P substrate. While high concentrations of intracellular DHEA are readily available in primates from the importation and subsequent de-sulfation of circulating DHEAS into p53-affected cells, both an anthropoid primate-specific sequence motif (GAAT) in the glucose-6-phosphatase (G6PC) promoter, and primate-specific inactivation of de novo synthesis of vitamin C by deletion of gulonolactone oxidase (GLO) were required to enable accumulation of G6P to levels sufficient to enable irreversible uncompetitive inhibition of G6PD. Malignant transformation acts as a counterforce opposing vertebrate speciation, particularly increases in body size and lifespan that enable optimized exploitation of particular niches. Unique mechanisms of tumor suppression that evolved to enable niche exploitation distinguish vertebrate species, and prevent one vertebrate species from serving as a valid model system for another. This here-to-fore unrecognized element of speciation undermines decades of cancer research data, using murine species, which presumed universal mechanisms of tumor suppression, independent of species. Despite this setback, the potential for pharmacological reconstitution of the kill switch tumor suppression system that distinguishes our species suggests that ‘normalization’ of human cancer risk, from its current 40% to the 4% of virtually all other large, long-lived species, represents a realistic near-term goal.

Free access

R J Santen, R X Song, Z Zhang, R Kumar, M-H Jeng, A Masamura, J Lawrence Jr, L Berstein and W Yue

Deprivation of estrogen causes breast tumors in women to adapt and develop enhanced sensitivity to this steroid. Accordingly, women relapsing after treatment with oophorectomy, which substantially lowers estradiol for a prolonged period, respond secondarily to aromatase inhibitors with tumor regression. We have utilized in vitro and in vivo model systems to examine the biologic processes whereby long-term estradiol deprivation (LTED) causes cells to adapt and develop hypersensitivity to estradiol. Several mechanisms are associated with this response, including up-regulation of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) and the MAP kinase, phosphoinositol 3 kinase (PI3-K) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) growth factor pathways. ERα is four- to tenfold up-regulated and co-opts a classical growth factor pathway using Shc, Grb-2 and Sos. This induces rapid non-genomic effects which are enhanced in LTED cells. The molecules involved in the non-genomic signaling process have been identified. Estradiol binds to cell membrane-associated ERα, which physically associates with the adaptor protein Shc, and induces its phosphorylation. In turn, Shc binds Grb-2 and Sos, which result in the rapid activation of MAP kinase. These non-genomic effects of estradiol produce biologic effects as evidenced by Elk-1 activation and by morphologic changes in cell membranes. Additional effects include activation of the PI3-K and mTOR pathways through estradiol-induced binding of ERα to the IGF-I and epidermal growth factor receptors. A major question is how ERα locates in the plasma membrane since it does not contain an inherent membrane localization signal. We have provided evidence that the IGF-I receptor serves as an anchor for ERα in the plasma membrane. Estradiol causes phosphorylation of the adaptor protein, Shc and the IGF-I receptor itself. Shc, after binding to ERα, serves as the ‘bus’ which carries ERα to Shc-binding sites on the activated IGF-I receptors. Use of small inhibitor (si) RNA methodology to knockdown Shc allows the conclusion that Shc is needed for ERα to localize in the plasma membrane. In order to abrogate growth factor-induced hypersensitivity, we have utilized a drug, farnesylthiosalicylic acid, which blocks the binding of GTP-Ras to its membrane acceptor protein, galectin 1, and reduces the activation of MAP kinase. We have also shown that this drug is a potent inhibitor of mTOR as an additional mechanism of inhibition of cell proliferation. The concept of ‘adaptive hypersensitivity’ and the mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon have important clinical implications. The efficacy of aromatase inhibitors in patients relapsing on tamoxifen could be explained by this mechanism and inhibitors of growth factor pathways should reverse the hypersensitivity phenomenon and result in prolongation of the efficacy of hormonal therapy for breast cancer.

Free access

Theodoros Karantanos, Styliani Karanika and Gretchen Gignac

Metabolic abnormalities including hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia have been associated with worse prognosis of prostate cancer (PCa), but there are limited data regarding their impact on the prognosis of castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and the response of novel antiandrogens, namely abiraterone acetate (AA) and enzalutamide. Retrospective analysis of 61 patients with CRPC on AA or enzalutamide, treated at the Boston Medical Center, was performed. We evaluated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), HDL, LDL, Triglycerides and BMI within 2months before the initiation of treatment with AA or enzalutamide and progression-free survival (PFS) under this treatment. Regression analysis and analysis of variance were used to evaluate the data. HbA1c levels were found to predict adversely the PFS on the novel agents (df (1, 37), P=0.00, R 2=0.40, coeff=−3.28). The Kaplan–Meier analysis showed that there is significant difference in survival between the HbA1c 4.7–5.9% compared with patients with HbA1c 7.8–11.6% (6.72±1.3months, log rank test P<0.0001) LDL (P=0.07), HDL (P=0.14), and triglycerides (P=0.33) were not found to predict PFS. BMI predicted PFS positively (df (1.59), P=0.02, R 2=0.09, coeff=0.03), but not independently of HbA1c (P=0.07). No significant implications of social and family history, previous chemotherapy regimen, and Gleason score with PFS were found. Multiple markers of patients’ health state were not associated with HbA1c values. Uncontrolled diabetes can predict for poor response of CRPC patients to AA and enzalutamide determining PFS under this treatment. Elevated BMI can positively affect PFS at this stage of disease.

Free access

Rie Shibuya, Takashi Suzuki, Yasuhiro Miki, Kimako Yoshida, Takuya Moriya, Katsuhiko Ono, Jun-ichi Akahira, Takanori Ishida, Hisashi Hirakawa, Dean B Evans and Hironobu Sasano

It is well known that sex steroids play important roles in the development of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) of the human breast. However, biological significance of sex steroids remains largely unclear in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), regarded as a precursor lesion of IDC, which is partly due to the fact that the intratumoral concentration of sex steroids has not been examined in DCIS. Therefore, in this study, we first examined the intratumoral concentrations of estradiol and 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) using liquid chromatography/electrospray tandem mass spectrometry in DCIS. Intratumoral concentrations of both estradiol and DHT were threefold higher in DCIS than non-neoplastic breast tissues and estrogen-producing enzymes (aromatase, steroid sulfatase, and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (17βHSD1)), and androgen-producing enzymes (17βHSD5 and 5α-reductase type 1 (5αRed1)) were abundantly expressed in DCIS by real-time PCR and immunohistochemical analyses. The intratumoral concentration of DHT was significantly lower in IDC than DCIS, while the expression of aromatase mRNA in carcinoma cells and intratumoral stromal cells was significantly higher in IDC than those in DCIS. Immunohistochemistry for sex steroid-producing enzymes in DCIS demonstrated that 5αRed1 immunoreactivity was positively correlated with Ki-67 labeling index and histological grade and was also associated with an increased risk of recurrence in patients with DCIS examined. Results of our study suggest that intratumoral concentrations of estradiol and DHT are increased in DCIS, which is possibly due to intratumoral production of these steroids. Therefore, estradiol and DHT may play important roles in the development of DCIS of the human breast.

Free access

Gianmarco Leone, Marcello Tucci, Consuelo Buttigliero, Clizia Zichi, Daniele Pignataro, Paolo Bironzo, Francesca Vignani, Giorgio V Scagliotti and Massimo Di Maio

Antiandrogen withdrawal syndrome is an unpredictable event diagnosed in patients with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer treated with combined androgen blockade therapy. It is defined by prostate-specific antigen value reduction, occasionally associated with a radiological response, that occurs 4–6 weeks after first-generation antiandrogen therapy discontinuation. New-generation hormonal therapies, such as enzalutamide and abiraterone acetate, improved the overall survival in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, and recent trials have also shown the efficacy of abiraterone in hormone-sensitive disease. In the last few years, several case reports and retrospective studies suggested that the withdrawal syndrome may also occur with these new drugs. This review summarizes literature data and hypothesis about the biological rationale underlying the syndrome and its potential clinical relevance, focusing mainly on new-generation hormonal therapies. Several in vitro studies suggest that androgen receptor gain-of-function mutations are involved in this syndrome, shifting the antiandrogen activity from antagonist to agonist. Several different drug-specific point mutations have been reported. The association of the withdrawal syndrome for enzalutamide and abiraterone needs confirmation by additional investigations. However, new-generation hormonal therapies being increasingly used in all stages of disease, more patients may experience the syndrome when stopping the treatment at the time of disease progression, although the clinical relevance of this phenomenon in the management of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer remains to be defined.

Free access

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.

Free access

K Revill, K J Dudley, R N Clayton, A M McNicol and W E Farrell

The imprinted gene, neuronatin (NNAT), is one of the most abundant transcripts in the pituitary and is thought to be involved in the development and maturation of this gland. In a recent whole-genome approach, exploiting a pituitary tumour cell line, we identified hypermethylation associated loss of NNAT. In this report, we determined the expression pattern of NNAT in individual cell types of the normal gland and within each of the different pituitary adenoma subtypes. In addition, we determined associations between expression and CpG island methylation and used colony forming efficiency assays (CFE) to gain further insight into the tumour-suppressor function of this gene. Immunohistochemical (IHC) co-localization studies of normal pituitaries showed that each of the hormone secreting cells (GH, PRL, ACTH, FSH and TSH) expressed NNAT. However, 33 out of 47 adenomas comprising, 11 somatotrophinomas, 10 prolactinomas, 12 corticotrophinomas and 14 non-functioning tumours, irrespective of subtype failed to express either NNAT transcript or protein as determined by quantitative real-time RT-PCR and IHC respectively. In normal pituitaries and adenomas that expressed NNAT the promoter-associated CpG island showed characteristics of an imprinted gene where ∼50% of molecules were densely methylated. However, in the majority of adenomas that showed loss or significantly reduced expression of NNAT, relative to normal pituitaries, the gene-associated CpG island showed significantly increased methylation. Induced expression of NNAT in transfected AtT-20 cells significantly reduced CFE. Collectively, these findings point to an important role for NNAT in the pituitary and perhaps tumour development in this gland.

Free access

Sisi Liu, Emmanouil Saloustros, Annabel Berthon, Matthew F Starost, Isabelle Sahut-Barnola, Paraskevi Salpea, Eva Szarek, Fabio R Faucz, Antoine Martinez and Constantine A Stratakis

Primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD), whether in the context of Carney complex (CNC) or isolated, leads to ACTH-independent Cushing's syndrome (CS). CNC and PPNAD are caused typically by inactivating mutations of PRKAR1A, a gene coding for the type 1a regulatory subunit (R1α) of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). Mice lacking Prkar1a, specifically in the adrenal cortex (AdKO) developed CS caused by bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH), which is formed from the abnormal proliferation of fetal-like adrenocortical cells. Celecoxib is a cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) inhibitor. In bone, Prkar1a inhibition is associated with COX2 activation and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production that, in turn, activates proliferation of bone stromal cells. We hypothesized that COX2 inhibition may have an effect in PPNAD. In vitro treatment of human cell lines, including one from a patient with PPNAD, with celecoxib resulted in decreased cell viability. We then treated AdKO and control mice with 1500 mg/kg celecoxib or vehicle. Celecoxib treatment led to decreased PGE2 and corticosterone levels, reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis of adrenocortical cells, and decreased steroidogenic gene expression. We conclude that, in vitro and in vivo, celecoxib led to decreased steroidogenesis. In a mouse model of PPNAD, celecoxib caused histological changes that, at least in part, reversed BAH and this was associated with a reduction of corticosterone levels.