Pathologists using their routine diagnostic tools can contribute both to the care of patients with pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma and to understanding the pathobiology of the tumors. They can document details of tissue organization and cytology that are accessible only by microscopy and can characterize admixtures of cell types that are morphologically distinct or show differential expression of immunohistochemical markers. Current roles and challenges for pathologists include differential diagnosis, identifying clues to the presence of hereditary disease, and effective communication of pathology information for clinical and research purposes. Future roles will increasingly involve risk stratification, identification of actionable targets for personalized therapies, and aiding the interpretation of molecular tests by helping characterize genetic variants of unknown significance. It remains to be determined to what extent the need for pathology input will be overshadowed by the availability of genetic testing and other molecular analyses at ever-decreasing cost, together with very effective clinical paradigms for risk stratification and patient care.
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Arthur S Tischler and Ronald R deKrijger
Arthur S Tischler and Judith Favier
Experimental models for pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma are needed for basic pathobiology research and for preclinical testing of drugs to improve treatment of patients with these tumors, especially patients with metastatic disease. The paucity of models reflects the rarity of the tumors, their slow growth, and their genetic complexity. While there are no human cell line or xenograft models that faithfully recapitulate the genotype or phenotype of these tumors, the past decade has shown progress in development and utilization of animal models, including a mouse and a rat model for SDH-deficient pheochromocytoma associated with germline Sdhb mutations. There are also innovative approaches to preclinical testing of potential treatments in primary cultures of human tumors. Challenges with these primary cultures include how to account for heterogeneous cell populations that will vary depending on the initial tumor dissociation and how to distinguish drug effects on neoplastic vs normal cells. The feasible duration for maintaining cultures must also be balanced against time required to reliably assess drug efficacy. Considerations potentially important for all in vitro studies include species differences, phenotype drift, changes that occur in the transition from tissue to cell culture, and the O2 concentration in which cultures are maintained.
James F Powers, Brent Cochran, James D Baleja, Hadley D Sikes, Xue Zhang, Inna Lomakin, Troy Langford, Kassi Taylor Stein, and Arthur S Tischler
We describe a unique patient-derived xenograft (PDX) and cell culture model of succinate dehydrogenase-deficient gastrointestinal stromal tumor (SDH-deficient GIST), a rare mesenchymal tumor that can occur in association with paragangliomas in hereditary and non-hereditary syndromes. This model is potentially important for what it might reveal specifically pertinent to this rare tumor type and, more broadly, to other types of SDH-deficient tumors. The primary tumor and xenografts show a very high proliferative fraction, and distinctive morphology characterized by tiny cells with marked autophagic activity. It is likely that these characteristics resulted from the combination of the germline SDHB mutation and a somatic KRAS G12D mutation. The most broadly relevant findings to date concern oxygen and oxidative stress. In paragangliomas harboring SDHx mutations, both hypoxic signaling and oxidative stress are putative drivers of tumor growth. However, there are no models for SDH-deficient paragangliomas. This related model is the first from a SDHB-mutated human tumor that can be experimentally manipulated to study mechanisms of oxygen effects and novel treatment strategies. Our data suggest that tumor growth and survival require a balance between protective effects of hypoxic signaling vs deleterious effects of oxidative stress. While reduced oxygen concentration promotes tumor cell survival, a further survival benefit is achieved with antioxidants. This suggests potential use of drugs that increase oxidative stress as novel therapies. In addition, autophagy, which has not been reported as a major finding in any type of SDH-deficient tumor, is a potential target of agents that might trigger autophagic cell death.
Elizabeth G Grubbs, Ronald M Lechan, Beth Edeiken-Monroe, Gilbert J Cote, Chardria Trotter, Arthur S Tischler, and Robert F Gagel
Forty years ago, physicians caring for the J-kindred, a 100+ member family with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A), hypothesized that early thyroidectomy based on measurement of the biomarker calcitonin could cure patients at risk for development of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). We re-evaluated 22 family members with proven RET proto-oncogene mutations (C634G) who underwent thyroidectomy and central lymphadenectomy between 1972 and 1994 based on stimulated calcitonin abnormalities. Current disease status was evaluated by serum calcitonin measurement and neck ultrasound in 18 of the 22 prospectively screened patients. The median age of the cohort at thyroidectomy was 16.5 years (range 9–24). The median duration of follow-up at the time of examination was 40 years (range 21–43) with a median current age of 52 years (range 34–65). Fifteen of the 18 patients had no detectable serum calcitonin (<2 pg/mL). Three had detectable serum calcitonin measurements, inappropriately elevated following total thyroidectomy. None of the 16 patients imaged had an abnormal ultrasound. Survival analysis shows no MTC-related deaths in the prospectively screened patients, whereas there were many in prior generations. Early thyroidectomy based on biomarker testing has rendered 15 of 18 MEN2A patients (83%) calcitonin-free with a median follow-up period of 40 years. There have been no deaths in the prospectively screened and thyroidectomized group. We conclude that early thyroidectomy and central lymph node dissection is an effective prophylactic treatment for hereditary MTC.
Lucia Martiniova, Shiromi M Perera, Frederieke M Brouwers, Salvatore Alesci, Mones Abu-Asab, Amanda F Marvelle, Dale O Kiesewetter, David Thomasson, John C Morris, Richard Kvetnansky, Arthur S Tischler, James C Reynolds, Antonio Tito Fojo, and Karel Pacak
[131I]meta-iodobenzylguanidine ([131I]MIBG) is the most commonly used treatment for metastatic pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. It enters the chromaffin cells via the membrane norepinephrine transporter; however, its success has been modest. We studied the ability of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors to enhance [123I]MIBG uptake by tumors in a mouse metastatic pheochromocytoma model. HDAC inhibitors are known to arrest growth, induce differentiation and apoptosis in various cancer cells, and further inhibit tumor growth. We report the in vitro and in vivo effects of two HDAC inhibitors, romidepsin and trichostatin A, on the uptake of [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine in a mouse model of metastatic pheochromocytoma. The effects of both inhibitors on norepinephrine transporter activity were assessed in mouse pheochromocytoma (MPC) cells by using the transporter-blocking agent desipramine and the vesicular-blocking agent reserpine. HDAC inhibitors increased [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine uptake through the norepinephrine transporter in MPC cells. In vivo, inhibitor treatment resulted in significantly increased uptake of [18F]fluorodopamine positron emission tomography (PET) in pheochromocytoma liver metastases (19.1±3.2% injected dose per gram of tumor (%ID/g) compared to liver metastases in pretreatment scans 5.9±0.6%; P<0.001). Biodistribution analysis after inhibitors treatment confirmed the PET results. The uptake of [123I]MIBG was significantly increased in liver metastases 9.5±1.1% compared to 3.19±0.4% in untreated control liver metastases (P<0.05). We found that HDAC inhibitors caused an increase in the amount of norepinephrine transporter expressed in tumors. HDAC inhibitors may enhance the therapeutic efficacy of [131I]MIBG treatment in patients with advanced malignant pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma.
Roland Därr, Joan Nambuba, Jaydira Del Rivero, Ingo Janssen, Maria Merino, Milena Todorovic, Bela Balint, Ivana Jochmanova, Josef T Prchal, Ronald M Lechan, Arthur S Tischler, Vera Popovic, Dragana Miljic, Karen T Adams, F Ryan Prall, Alexander Ling, Meredith R Golomb, Michael Ferguson, Naris Nilubol, Clara C Chen, Emily Chew, David Taïeb, Constantine A Stratakis, Tito Fojo, Chunzhang Yang, Electron Kebebew, Zhengping Zhuang, and Karel Pacak
Worldwide, the syndromes of paraganglioma (PGL), somatostatinoma (SOM) and early childhood polycythemia are described in only a few patients with somatic mutations in the hypoxia-inducible factor 2 alpha (HIF2A). This study provides detailed information about the clinical aspects and course of 7 patients with this syndrome and brings into perspective these experiences with the pertinent literature. Six females and one male presented at a median age of 28 years (range 11–46). Two were found to have HIF2A somatic mosaicism. No relatives were affected. All patients were diagnosed with polycythemia before age 8 and before PGL/SOM developed. PGLs were found at a median age of 17 years (range 8–38) and SOMs at 29 years (range 22–38). PGLs were multiple, recurrent and metastatic in 100, 100 and 29% of all cases, and SOMs in 40, 40 and 60%, respectively. All PGLs were primarily norepinephrine-producing. All patients had abnormal ophthalmologic findings and those with SOMs had gallbladder disease. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging revealed cystic lesions at multiple sites and hemangiomas in 4 patients (57%), previously thought to be pathognomonic for von Hippel–Lindau disease. The most accurate radiopharmaceutical to detect PGL appeared to be [18F]-fluorodihydroxyphenylalanine ([18F]-FDOPA). Therefore, [18F]-FDOPA PET/CT, not [68Ga]-(DOTA)-[Tyr3]-octreotate ([68Ga]-DOTATATE) PET/CT is recommended for tumor localization and aftercare in this syndrome. The long-term prognosis of the syndrome is unknown. However, to date no deaths occurred after 6 years follow-up. Physicians should be aware of this unique syndrome and its diagnostic and therapeutic challenges.
James F Powers, Brent Cochran, James D Baleja, Hadley D Sikes, Andrew D Pattison, Xue Zhang, Inna Lomakin, Annette Shepard-Barry, Karel Pacak, Sun Jin Moon, Troy F Langford, Kassi Taylor Stein, Richard W Tothill, Yingbin Ouyang, and Arthur S Tischler
Tumors caused by loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding TCA cycle enzymes have been recently discovered and are now of great interest. Mutations in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) subunits cause pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PCPG) and syndromically associated tumors, which differ phenotypically and clinically from more common SDH-intact tumors of the same types. Consequences of SDH deficiency include rewired metabolism, pseudohypoxic signaling and altered redox balance. PCPG with SDHB mutations are particularly aggressive, and development of treatments has been hampered by lack of valid experimental models. Attempts to develop mouse models have been unsuccessful. Using a new strategy, we developed a xenograft and cell line model of SDH-deficient pheochromocytoma from rats with a heterozygous germline Sdhb mutation. The genome, transcriptome and metabolome of this model, called RS0, closely resemble those of SDHB-mutated human PCPGs, making it the most valid model now available. Strategies employed to develop RS0 may be broadly applicable to other SDH-deficient tumors.