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Larry K Kvols, Kjell E Oberg, Thomas M O'Dorisio, Pharis Mohideen, Wouter W de Herder, Rudolf Arnold, Ke Hu, Yilong Zhang, Gareth Hughes, Lowell Anthony and Bertram Wiedenmann

Pasireotide (SOM230) is a novel multireceptor-targeted somatostatin (sst) analog with high binding affinity for sst receptor subtype 1, 2, 3 (sst1,2,3) and sst5. Because of this binding profile, pasireotide may offer symptom control in patients with neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and carcinoid syndrome no longer responsive to octreotide LAR. This was a phase II, open-label, multicenter study of pasireotide in patients with advanced NET whose symptoms of carcinoid syndrome (diarrhea/flushing) were inadequately controlled by octreotide LAR. Patients received s.c. pasireotide 150 μg twice daily (bid), escalated to a maximum dose of 1200 μg bid until a clinical response was achieved. Forty-four patients were evaluated for efficacy and 45 for tolerability. Pasireotide 600–900 μg s.c. bid effectively controlled the symptoms of diarrhea and flushing in 27% of patients. Evaluation of tumor response in 23 patients showed 13 with stable disease and ten with progressive disease at study end. The most common drug-related adverse events were nausea (27%), abdominal pain (20%), weight loss (20%), and hyperglycemia (16%) and most were of mild or moderate severity. Pasireotide 600–900 μg s.c. bid was effective and generally well tolerated in controlling the symptoms of carcinoid syndrome in 27% of patients with advanced NET refractory or resistant to octreotide LAR therapy.

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Aura D Herrera-Martínez, Leo J Hofland, María A Gálvez Moreno, Justo P Castaño, Wouter W de Herder and Richard A Feelders

Some biomarkers for functioning and non-functioning neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) are currently available. Despite their application in clinical practice, results should be interpreted cautiously. Considering the variable sensitivity and specificity of these parameters, there is an unmet need for novel biomarkers to improve diagnosis and predict patient outcome. Nowadays, several new biomarkers are being evaluated and may become future tools for the management of NENs. These biomarkers include (1) peptides and growth factors; (2) DNA and RNA markers based on genomics analysis, for example, the so-called NET test, which has been developed for analyzing gene transcripts in circulating blood; (3) circulating tumor/endothelial/progenitor cells or cell-free tumor DNA, which represent minimally invasive methods that would provide additional information for monitoring treatment response and (4) improved imaging techniques with novel radiolabeled somatostatin analogs or peptides. Below we summarize some future directions in the development of novel diagnostic and predictive/prognostic biomarkers in NENs. This review is focused on circulating and selected tissue markers.

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Peter M van Koetsveld, Giovanni Vitale, Richard A Feelders, Marlijn Waaijers, Diana M Sprij-Mooij, Ronald R de Krijger, Ernst-Jan M Speel, Johannes Hofland, Steven W J Lamberts, Wouter W de Herder and Leo J Hofland

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive tumor with very poor prognosis. Novel medical treatment opportunities are required. We investigated the effects of interferon-β (IFN-β), alone or in combination with mitotane, on cell growth and cortisol secretion in primary cultures of 13 human ACCs, three adrenal hyperplasias, three adrenal adenomas, and in two ACC cell lines. Moreover, the interrelationship between the effects of IGF2 and IFN-β was evaluated. Mitotane inhibited cell total DNA content/well (representing cell number) in 7/11 (IC50: 38±9.2 μM) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 4.5±0.1 μM). IFN-β reduced cell number in 10/11 (IC50: 83±18 IU/ml) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 7.3±1.5 IU/ml). The effect of IFN-β on cell number included the induction of apoptosis. IFN-β strongly inhibited mRNA expression of STAR, CYP11A1, CYP17A1, and CYP11B1. Mitotane and IFN-β induced an additive inhibitory effect on cell number and cortisol secretion. IGF2 (10 nM) inhibited apoptosis and increased cell number and cortisol secretion. These effects were counteracted by IFN-β treatment. Finally, IFN-β inhibited IGF2 secretion and mRNA expression. In conclusion, IFN-β is a potent inhibitor of ACC cell growth in human primary ACC cultures, partially mediated by an inhibition of the effects of IGF2, as well as its production. The increased sensitivity of ACC cells to mitotane induced by treatment with IFN-β may open the opportunity for combined treatment regimens with lower mitotane doses. The inhibition of the expression of steroidogenic enzymes by IFN-β is a novel mechanism that may explain its inhibitory effect on cortisol production.

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Maria Cristina De Martino, Peter M van Koetsveld, Richard A Feelders, Diana Sprij-Mooij, Marlijn Waaijers, Steven W J Lamberts, Wouter W de Herder, Annamaria Colao, Rosario Pivonello and Leo J Hofland

Patients with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) need new treatment options. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of the mTOR inhibitors sirolimus and temsirolimus on human ACC cell growth and cortisol production. In H295, HAC15, and SW13 cells, we have evaluated mTOR, IGF2, and IGF1 receptor expressions; the effects of sirolimus and temsirolimus on cell growth; and the effects of sirolimus on apoptosis, cell cycle, and cortisol production. Moreover, the effects of sirolimus on basal and IGF2-stimulated H295 cell colony growth and on basal and IGF1-stimulated phospho-AKT, phospho-S6K1, and phospho-ERK in H295 and SW13 were studied. Finally, we have evaluated the effects of combination treatment of sirolimus with an IGF2-neutralizing antibody. We have found that H295 and HAC15 expressed IGF2 at a >1800-fold higher level than SW13. mTOR inhibitors suppressed cell growth in a dose-/time-dependent manner in all cell lines. SW13 were the most sensitive to these effects. Sirolimus inhibited H295 colony surviving fraction and size. These effects were not antagonized by IGF2, suggesting the involvement of other autocrine regulators of mTOR pathways. In H295, sirolimus activated escape pathways. The blocking of endogenously produced IGF2 increased the antiproliferative effects of sirolimus on H295. Cortisol production by H295 and HAC15 was inhibited by sirolimus. The current study demonstrates that mTOR inhibitors inhibit the proliferation and cortisol production in ACC cells. Different ACC cells have different sensitivity to the mTOR inhibitors. mTOR could be a target for the treatment of human ACCs, but variable responses might be expected. In selected cases of ACC, the combined targeting of mTOR and IGF2 could have greater effects than mTOR inhibitors alone.

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Esther Korpershoek, Bart-Jeroen Petri, Francien H van Nederveen, Winand N M Dinjens, Albert A Verhofstad, Wouter W de Herder, Sonja Schmid, Aurel Perren, Paul Komminoth and Ronald R de Krijger

Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) are rare tumors that arise from chromaffin tissue in the adrenal medulla, but can also occur in the abdomen outside the adrenals and are then called sympathetic paragangliomas (sPGLs). According to the literature, between 15 and 25% of apparently sporadic adrenal PCC and sPGL are caused by germline mutations in RET, von Hippel–Lindau disease (VHL), succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB), or subunit D SDHD. However, few studies have addressed the mutationfrequency of these candidate genes in selected subgroups of PCC andsPGL, such as bilateral adrenal PCC or extra-adrenal sPGL, and none have looked at somatic mutations by analyzing tumor tissue. Therefore, we have investigated the occurrence of germline and somatic mutations in RET, VHL, SDHB, and SDHD in comparatively large series of bilateral adrenal PCC (n = 33 patients) and sPGL (n = 26 patients), with the aim of determining the mutation frequency of each of these genes and to establish a genetic testing algorithm. Twenty-one RET, two VHL germline, and one SDHD mutations were found in the patients with bilateral adrenal PCC. In sPGL, one novel SDHB germline and one novel SDHB somatic mutation were observed. In addition, two SDHD germline mutations were found. We conclude that germline RET mutations are predominantly found in bilateral PCC, and that somatic and germline SDHB and SDHD mutations usually occur in sPGL, which has practical consequences for genetic testing algorithms. We suggest that sequential mutation analysis should be directed first at RET, followed by VHL and SDHD for patients with bilateral adrenal PCC at diagnosis, and at SDHB and SDHD for patients with sPGL.

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Dik J Kwekkeboom, Boen L Kam, Martijn van Essen, Jaap J M Teunissen, Casper H J van Eijck, Roelf Valkema, Marion de Jong, Wouter W de Herder and Eric P Krenning

Somatostatin receptor imaging (SRI) with [111In-DTPA0]octreotide has proven its role in the diagnosis and staging of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEPNETs). Newer radiolabeled somatostatin analogs which can be used in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, and which have a higher affinity for the somatostatin receptor, especially receptor subtype-2, have been developed. It would be desirable, however, if one radiolabeled analog became the new standard for PET imaging, because the current application of a multitude of analogs implies a fragmented knowledge on the interpretation of the images that are obtained in clinical practice. In our view, the most likely candidates for such a universal PET tracer for SRI are [68Ga-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate or [68Ga-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotide. Treatment with radiolabeled somatostatin analogs is a promising new tool in the management of patients with inoperable or metastasized neuroendocrine tumors. Symptomatic improvement may occur with all 111In-, 90Y-, or 177Lu-labeled somatostatin analogs that have been used for peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). The results that were obtained with [90Y-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotide and [177Lu-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate are very encouraging in terms of tumor regression. Also, if kidney protective agents are used, the side effects of this therapy are few and mild, and the median duration of the therapy response for these radiopharmaceuticals is 30 and 40 months respectively. The patients' self-assessed quality of life increases significantly after treatment with [177Lu-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate. Lastly, compared to historical controls, there is a benefit in overall survival of several years from the time of diagnosis in patients treated with [177Lu-DOTA0,Tyr3]octreotate. These data compare favorably with the limited number of alternative treatment approaches. If more widespread use of PRRT can be guaranteed, such therapy may well become the therapy of first choice in patients with metastasized or inoperable GEPNETs.

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Adrian F Daly, Emilie Castermans, Lindsey Oudijk, Mirtha A Guitelman, Pablo Beckers, Iulia Potorac, Sebastian J C M M Neggers, Nathalie Sacre, Aart-Jan van der Lely, Vincent Bours, Wouter W de Herder and Albert Beckers

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Aura D Herrera-Martínez, Rosanna van den Dungen, Fadime Dogan-Oruc, Peter M van Koetsveld, Michael D Culler, Wouter W de Herder, Raúl M Luque, Richard A Feelders and Leo J Hofland

Control of symptoms related to hormonal hypersecretion by functioning neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is challenging. New therapeutic options are required. Since novel in vitro tumor models seem to better mimic the tumor in vivo conditions, we aimed to study the effect of somatostatin and dopamine receptor agonists (octreotide and cabergoline, respectively) and novel somatostatin-dopamine chimeric multi-receptor drugs (BIM-065, BIM-23A760) using 2D (monolayer) and 3D (spheroids) cultures. Dose–response studies in 2D and 3D human pancreatic NET cell cultures (BON-1 and QGP-1) were performed under serum-containing and serum-deprived conditions. Cell proliferation, somatostatin and dopamine receptor expression (SSTs and D2R), apoptosis, lactate dehydrogenase, as well as serotonin and chromogranin A (CgA) release were assessed. The following results were obtained. 3D cultures of BON-1/QGP-1 allowed better cell survival than 2D cultures in serum-deprived conditions. SSTs and D2R mRNA levels were higher in the 3D model vs 2D model. Octreotide/cabergoline/BIM-065/BIM-23A760 treatment did not affect cell growth or spheroid size. In BON-1 2D-cultures, only BIM-23A760 significantly inhibited CgA release –this effect being more pronounced in 3D cultures. In BON-1 2D cultures, cabergoline/BIM-065/BIM-23A760 treatment decreased serotonin release (maximal effect up to 40%), being this effect again more potent in 3D cultures (up to 67% inhibition; with BIM-23A760 having the most potent effects). In QGP-1, cabergoline/BIM-065 treatment decreased serotonin release only in the 3D model. In conclusion, cultures of NET 3D spheroids represent a promising method for evaluating cell proliferation and secretion in NET cell-line models. Compared to 2D models, 3D models grow relatively serum independent. In 3D model, SST-D2R multi-receptor targeting drugs inhibit CgA and serotonin secretion, but not NET cell growth.

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Maria Cristina De Martino, Richard A Feelders, Wouter W de Herder, Peter M van Koetsveld, Fadime Dogan, Joseph A M J L Janssen, A Marlijn Waaijers, Claudia Pivonello, Steven W J Lamberts, Annamaria Colao, Ronald R de Krijger, Rosario Pivonello and Leo J Hofland

The mTOR pathway has recently been suggested as a new potential target for therapy in adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs). The aim of the current study is to describe the expression of the mTOR pathway in normal adrenals (NAs) and pathological adrenals and to explore whether there are correlation between the expression of these proteins and the in vitro response to sirolimus. For this purpose, the MTOR, S6K1 (RPS6KB1), and 4EBP1 (EIF4EBP1) mRNA expression were evaluated in ten NAs, ten adrenal hyperplasias (AHs), 17 adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs), and 17 ACCs by qPCR, whereas total(t)/phospho(p)-MTOR, t/p-S6K, and t/p-4EBP1 protein expression were assessed in three NAs, three AHs, six ACAs, and 20 ACCs by immunohistochemistry. The effects of sirolimus on cell survival and/or cortisol secretion in 12 human primary cultures of adrenocortical tumors (ATs) were also evaluated. In NAs and AHs, layer-specific expression of evaluated proteins was observed. S6K1 mRNA levels were lower in ACCs compared with NAs, AHs, and ACAs (P<0.01). A subset of ATs presented a moderate to high staining of the evaluated proteins. Median t-S6K1 protein expression in ACCs was lower than that in ACAs (P<0.01). Moderate to high staining of p-S6K1 and/or p-4EBP1 was observed in most ATs. A subset of ACCs not having moderate to high staining had a higher Weiss score than others (P<0.029). In primary AT cultures, sirolimus significantly reduced cell survival or cortisol secretion only in sporadic cases. In conclusion, these data suggest the presence of an activated mTOR pathway in a subset of ATs and a possible response to sirolimus only in certain ACC cases.

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Thomas G Papathomas, Lindsey Oudijk, Ellen C Zwarthoff, Edward Post, Floor A Duijkers, Max M van Noesel, Leo J Hofland, Patrick J Pollard, Eamonn R Maher, David F Restuccia, Richard A Feelders, Gaston J H Franssen, Henri J Timmers, Stefan Sleijfer, Wouter W de Herder, Ronald R de Krijger, Winand N M Dinjens and Esther Korpershoek

Hotspot mutations in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene have been recently reported in human cancers and proposed as a novel mechanism of telomerase activation. To explore TERT promoter mutations in tumors originating from the adrenal gland and extra-adrenal paraganglia, a set of 253 tumors (38 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs), 127 pheochromocytomas (PCCs), 18 extra-adrenal paragangliomas (ea PGLs), 37 head and neck PGLs (HN PGLs), and 33 peripheral neuroblastic tumors) was selected along with 16 human neuroblastoma (NBL) and two ACC cell lines to assess TERT promoter mutations by the Sanger sequencing method. All mutations detected were confirmed by a SNaPshot assay. Additionally, 36 gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) were added to explore an association between TERT promoter mutations and SDH deficiency. TERT promoter mutations were found in seven out of 289 tumors and in three out of 18 human cell lines; four C228T mutations in 38 ACCs (10.5%), two C228T mutations in 18 ea PGLs (11.1%), one C250T mutation in 36 GISTs (2.8%), and three C228T mutations in 16 human NBL cell lines (18.75%). No mutation was detected in PCCs, HN PGLs, neuroblastic tumors as well as ACC cell lines. TERT promoter mutations preferentially occurred in a SDH-deficient setting (P=0.01) being present in three out of 47 (6.4%) SDH-deficient tumors vs zero out of 171 (0%) SDH-intact tumors. We conclude that TERT promoter mutations occur in ACCs and ea PGLs. In addition, preliminary evidence indicates a potential association with the acquisition of TERT promoter mutations in SDH-deficient tumors.