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Ashley Grossman

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Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem disorder characterised by the development of multiple hamartomas in numerous organs. It is caused by mutations of two tumour suppressor genes, TSC1 on chromosome 9q34 and TSC2 on chromosome 16p13.3, which encode for hamartin and tuberin respectively. The interaction between these two proteins, the tuberin–hamartin complex, has been shown to be critical to multiple intracellular signalling pathways, especially those controlling cell growth and proliferation. TSC may affect skin, central nervous system, kidneys, heart, eyes, blood vessels, lung, bone and gastrointestinal tract. Small series and case reports have documented that in tuberous sclerosis patients many endocrine system alterations might occur, affecting the function of the pituitary, parathyroid and other neuroendocrine tissue. There have been scattered reports of the involvement of such tissue in the pathological process of TSC, but no systematic review as to whether this is a true association. We have therefore systematically assessed all available published literature in this area. We conclude that there may be an association with pituitary and parathyroid tumours, and two recent descriptions of Cushing's disease are especially intriguing. However, the evidence seems more firm in the case of islet cell tumours, particularly insulinomas. As these latter may cause changes in mental state that may be confused with the cerebral manifestations of TSC per se, it is particularly important for physicians working with these patients to be aware of the putative and indeed likely association.

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Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman

Pituitary adenomas are unique in multiple ways. They are rarely malignant in terms of metastases; yet, they may be aggressive. Their cancerous potential is defined in a classic oncological way by the ability to metastasise, and therefore, it has been crucial to differentiate this process from aggressive behaviour, characterised as a particularly invasive and/or recurrent behaviour and resistance to common modalities of therapy. Recently, however, important changes have been introduced to the diagnosis and management of aggressive and malignant pituitary tumours including the 4th edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) classification for endocrine tumours (2017) as well as ESE Clinical Guidelines (2018), although an attempt to establish predictive and/or prognostic markers of clinical aggressiveness remains difficult. In this review, we focus on a group of pituitary tumours causing significant problems in clinical practice and requiring multidisciplinary input. We summarise updates in definitions of tumour invasiveness, aggressiveness and malignant transformation, as well as histological classification, and emphasise the new considerations regarding aggressive and malignant potential and its relationship to therapeutic strategies.

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Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Ilan Shimon, Márta Korbonits and Ashley B Grossman

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) represent a heterogeneous family of neoplasms, which may develop from different endocrine glands (such as the pituitary, the parathyroid or the neuroendocrine adrenal glands), endocrine islets (within the thyroid or pancreas) as well as from endocrine cells dispersed between exocrine cells throughout the digestive and respiratory tracts. The development of somatostatin analogues (SSA) as important diagnostic and treatment tools has revolutionised the clinical management of patients with NETs. However, although symptomatic relief and stabilisation of tumour growth for various periods of time are observed in many patients treated with SSA, tumour regression is rare. Possible mechanisms when this does occur include antagonism of local growth factor release and effects, probably including activation of tyrosine and serine–threonine phosphatases, and indirect effects via anti-angiogenesis. The development of new SSA, new drug combination therapies and chimaeric molecules should further improve the clinical management of these patients, as should a more complete understanding of their mode of action.

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Alexandra Chrisoulidou, Gregory Kaltsas, Ioannis Ilias and Ashley B Grossman

Malignant phaeochromocytomas are rare tumours accounting for ~10% of all phaeochromocytomas; the prevalence of malignancy among paragangliomas is higher, especially those associated with succinate dehydrogenase subunit B gene mutations. Although a subset of these tumours has metastatic disease at initial presentation, a significant number develops metastases during follow-up after excision of an apparently benign tumour. Clinical, biochemical and histological features cannot reliably distinguish malignant from benign tumours. Although a number of recently introduced molecular markers have been explored, their clinical significance remains to be elucidated from further studies. Several imaging modalities have been utilised for the diagnosis and staging of these tumours. Functional imaging using radiolabelled metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) and more recently, 18F-fluorodopamine and 18F-fluorodopa positron emission tomography offer substantial sensitivity and specificity to correctly detect metastatic phaeochromocytoma and paraganglioma and helps identify patients suitable for treatment with radiopharmaceuticals. The 5-year mortality rate of patients with malignant phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas greater than 50% indicates that there is considerable room for the improvement of currently available therapies. The main therapeutic target is tumour reduction and control of symptoms of excessive catecholamine secretion. Currently, the best adjunctive therapy to surgery is treatment with radiopharmaceuticals using 131I-MIBG; however, this is very rarely curative. Chemotherapy has been used for metastatic disease with only a partial and mainly palliative effect. The role of other forms of radionuclide treatment either alone or in combination with chemotherapy is currently evolving. Ongoing microarray studies may provide novel intracellular pathways of importance for proliferation/cell cycle control, and lead to the development of novel pharmacological agents.

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Cristina Capatina, Georgia Ntali, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Paragangliomas (PGLs) are tumours originating from neural crest-derived cells situated in the region of the autonomic nervous system ganglia. Head-and-neck PGLs (HNPGLs) originate from the sympathetic and parasympathetic paraganglia, most frequently from the carotid bodies and jugular, tympanic and vagal paraganglia, and are usually non-catecholamine secreting. Familial PGLs are considered to be rare, but recently genetic syndromes including multiple PGLs and/or phaeochromocytomas have been more thoroughly characterised. Nowadays, genetic screening for the genes frequently implicated in both familial and sporadic cases is routinely being recommended. HNPGLs are mostly benign, generally slow-growing tumours. Continuous growth leads to the involvement of adjacent neurovascular structures with increased morbidity rates and treatment-related complications. Optimal management mostly depends on tumour location, local involvement of neurovascular structures, estimated malignancy risk, patient age and general health. Surgery is the only treatment option offering the chance of cure but with significant morbidity rates, so a more conservative approach is usually considered, especially in the more difficult cases. Radiotherapy (fractionated or stereotactic radiosurgery) leads to tumour growth arrest and symptomatic improvement in the short term in many cases, but the long-term consequences are unclear. Early detection is essential in order to increase the chance of cure with a lower morbidity rate. The constant improvement in diagnostic imaging, surgical and radiation techniques has led to a safer management of these tumours, but there are still many therapeutic challenges, and no treatment algorithm has been agreed upon until now. The management of HNPGLs requires a multidisciplinary effort addressing the genetic, surgical, radiotherapeutic, oncological, neurological and endocrinological implications. Further progress in the understanding of their pathogenesis will lead to more effective screening and earlier diagnosis, both critical to successful treatment.

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Krystallenia I Alexandraki, Gregory A Kaltsas, Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Eleftherios Chatzellis and Ashley B Grossman

Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine neoplasms (GI-NENs) are increasingly being recognised, while appendiceal NENs (aNENs) currently constitute the third most common GI-NEN. Appendiceal NENs are generally considered to follow an indolent course with the majority being localised at diagnosis. Thus, the initial surgical approach is not that of a planned oncological resection. Due to the localised nature of the disease in the majority of cases, subsequent biochemical and radiological assessment are not routinely recommended. Histopathological criteria (size, mesoappendiceal invasion, Ki-67 proliferation index, neuro- and angio-invasion) are mainly used to identify those patients who are also candidates for a right hemicolectomy. Goblet cell carcinoids are a distinct entity and should be treated as adenocarcinomas. Despite the absence of any substantial prospective data regarding optimal management and follow-up, recent consensus statements and guidelines have been published. The purpose of this review is to overview the published studies on the diagnosis and management of appendiceal NENs and to suggest a possible management protocol.

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Ioannis Ilias, Anju Sahdev, Rodney H Reznek, Ashley B Grossman and Karel Pacak

Computed tomography (CT; unenhanced, followed by contrast-enhanced examinations) is the cornerstone of imaging of adrenal tumours. Attenuation values of <10 Hounsfield units on an unenhanced CT are practically diagnostic for adenomas. When lesions cannot be characterised adequately with CT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluation (with T1- and T2-weighted sequences and chemical shift and fat-suppression refinements) is sought. Functional nuclear medicine imaging is useful for adrenal lesions that are not adequately characterised with CT and MRI. Scintigraphy with [131I]-6-iodomethyl norcholesterol (a labelled cholesterol analogue) can differentiate adrenal cortical adenomas from carcinomas. Phaeochromocytomas appear as areas of abnormal and/or increased uptake of [123I]- and [131I]-meta-iodobenzylguanidine (a labelled noradrenaline analogue). The specific and useful roles of adrenal imaging include the characterisation of tumours, assessment of true tumour size, differentiation of adenomas from carcinomas and metastases, and differentiation of hyperfunctioning from non-functioning lesions. Adrenal imaging complements and assists the clinical and hormonal evaluation of adrenal tumours.

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

Although recent epidemiological evidence indicates that the prevalence of non-functioning gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) is rising, a significant number of GEP-NETs still present with symptoms related to the secretion of biologically active substances leading to the development of distinct clinical syndromes. In the past, these syndromes were associated with substantial morbidity and mortality due to the lack of specific therapies; however, since the introduction of long-acting somatostatin analogues and medications such as proton pump inhibitors, their control has been greatly improved. As a result, nowadays, the main cause of morbidity and mortality in GEP-NETs is mostly directly related to tumour growth and the extent of metastatic disease. However, in some patients with functioning tumours and extensive disease, control of the secretory syndrome still remains problematic, necessitating the employment of several cytoreductive techniques, which may not always be sufficient. Recently, new agents directed against tumour growth, or exerting increased binding activity to receptors expressed in these tumours, or interfering with the synthetic pathway of some of the compounds secreted by these tumours, have been developed. Since there are no specific guidelines addressing the totality of the management of the secretory syndromes related to GEP-NETs, this review aims at critically analysing the medical management of previously recognised secretory syndromes; it also addresses areas of uncertainty, assesses the newer therapeutic developments and also addresses recently described but poorly characterised secretory syndromes related to GEP-NETs.