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Georgios K Dimitriadis, Anna Angelousi, Martin O Weickert, Harpal S Randeva, Gregory Kaltsas and Ashley Grossman

The majority of neoplasms are responsible for symptoms caused by mass effects to surrounding tissues and/or through the development of metastases. However, occasionally neoplasms, with or without endocrine differentiation, acquire the ability to secrete a variety of bioactive substances or induce immune cross-reactivity with the normal tissues that can lead to the development of characteristic clinical syndromes. These syndromes are named endocrine paraneoplastic syndromes when the specific secretory components (hormones, peptides or cytokines) are unrelated to the anticipated tissue or organ of origin. Endocrine paraneoplastic syndromes can complicate the patient’s clinical course, response to treatment, impact prognosis and even be confused as metastatic spread. These syndromes can precede, occur concomitantly or present at a later stage of tumour development, and along with the secreted substances constitute the biological ‘fingerprint’ of the tumour. Their detection can facilitate early diagnosis of the underlying neoplasia, monitor response to treatment and/or detect early recurrences following successful initial management. Although when associated with tumours of low malignant potential they usually do not affect long-term outcome, in cases of highly malignant tumours, endocrine paraneoplastic syndromes are usually associated with poorer survival outcomes. Recent medical advances have not only improved our understanding of paraneoplastic syndrome pathogenesis in general but also enhanced their diagnosis and treatment. Yet, given the rarity of endocrine paraneoplastic syndromes, there is a paucity of prospective clinical trials to guide management. The development of well-designed prospective multicentre trials remains a priority in the field in order to fully characterise these syndromes and provide evidence-based diagnostic and therapeutic protocols.

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Anna Angelousi, Georgios K Dimitriadis, Georgios Zografos, Svenja Nölting, Gregory Kaltsas and Ashley Grossman

Tumourigenesis is a relatively common event in endocrine tissues. Currently, specific guidelines have been developed for common malignant endocrine tumours, which also incorporate advances in molecular targeted therapies (MTT), as in thyroid cancer and in gastrointestinal neuroendocrine malignancies. However, there is little information regarding the role and efficacy of MTT in the relatively rare malignant endocrine tumours mainly involving the adrenal medulla, adrenal cortex, pituitary, and parathyroid glands. Due to the rarity of these tumours and the lack of prospective studies, current guidelines are mostly based on retrospective data derived from surgical, locoregional and ablative therapies, and studies with systemic chemotherapy. In addition, in many of these malignancies the prognosis remains poor with individual patients responding differently to currently available treatments, necessitating the development of new personalised therapeutic strategies. Recently, major advances in the molecular understanding of endocrine tumours based on genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptome analysis have emerged, resulting in new insights into their pathogenesis and molecular pathology. This in turn has led to the use of novel MTTs in increasing numbers of patients. In this review, we aim to present currently existing and evolving data using MTT in the treatment of adrenal, pituitary and malignant parathyroid tumours, and explore the current utility and effectiveness of such therapies and their future evolution.

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Anna Angelousi, Eva Kassi, Narjes Ansari-Nasiri, Harpal Randeva, Gregory Kaltsas and George Chrousos

Circadian rhythms at a central and peripheral level are operated by transcriptional/translational feedback loops involving a set of genes called ‘clock genes’ that have been implicated in the development of several diseases, including malignancies. Dysregulation of the Clock system can influence cancer susceptibility by regulating DNA damage and repair mechanisms, as well as apoptosis. A number of oncogenic pathways can be dysregulated via clock genes’ epigenetic alterations, including hypermethylation of clock genes’ promoters or variants of clock genes. Clock gene disruption has been studied in breast, lung and prostate cancer, and haematological malignancies. However, it is still not entirely clear whether clock gene disruption is the cause or the consequence of tumourigenesis and data in endocrine neoplasms are scarce. Recent findings suggest that clock genes are implicated in benign and malignant adrenocortical neoplasias. They have been also associated with follicular and papillary thyroid carcinomas and parathyroid adenomas, as well as pituitary adenomas and craniopharyngiomas. Dysregulation of clock genes is also encountered in ovarian and testicular tumours and may also be related with their susceptibility to chemotherapeutic agents. The most common clock genes that are implicated in endocrine neoplasms are PER1, CRY1; in most cases their expression is downregulated in tumoural compared to normal tissues. Although there is still a lot to be done for the better understanding of the role of clock genes in endocrine tumourigenenesis, existing evidence could guide research and help identify novel therapeutic targets aiming mainly at the peripheral components of the clock gene system.

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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.