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Atsuko Kasajima and Günter Klöppel

The bronchopulmonary (BP) and gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) organ systems harbor the majority of the neuroendocrine neoplasms (NENs) of the body, comprising 20 and 70% of all NENs, respectively. Common to both NEN groups is a classification distinguishing between well- and poorly differentiated NENs associated with distinct genetic profiles. Differences between the two groups concern the reciprocal prevalence of well and poorly differentiated neoplasms, the application of a Ki67-based grading, the variety of histological patterns, the diversity of hormone expression and associated syndromes, the variable involvement in hereditary tumor syndromes, and the peculiarities of genetic changes. This review focuses on a detailed comparison of BP-NENs with GEP-NENs with the aim of highlighting and discussing the most obvious differences. Despite obvious differences, the principle therapeutical options are still the same for both NEN groups, but with further progress in genetics, more targeted therapy strategies can be expected in future.

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Atsuko Kasajima, Yuichi Ishikawa, Ayaka Iwata, Katja Steiger, Naomi Oka, Hirotaka Ishida, Akira Sakurada, Hiroyoshi Suzuki, Toru Kameya, Björn Konukiewitz, Günter Klöppel, Yoshinori Okada, Hironobu Sasano, and Wilko Weichert

In the light of novel cancer immune therapies, the status of antitumor inflammatory response and its regulation has gained much attention in patients with lung cancer. Ample datasets exist for non-small-cell lung cancer, but those for pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are scarce and controversial. Here, tumor-associated inflammation, CD8+ cell infiltration and PD-L1 status were evaluated in a cohort of 57 resected carcinoids and 185 resected neuroendocrine carcinomas of the lung (58 large cell carcinomas and 127 small cell carcinomas). Data were correlated with clinicopathological factors and survival. Moderate or high tumor-associated inflammation was detected in 4 carcinoids (7%) and in 37 neuroendocrine carcinomas (20%). PD-L1 immunoreactivity was seen in immune cells of 73 (39%) neuroendocrine carcinomas, while tumor cells were labeled in 21 (11%) cases. Inflammatory cells and tumor cells in carcinoids lacked any PD-L1 expression. In neuroendocrine carcinomas, PD-L1 positivity in immune cells, but not in tumor cells, was associated with intratumoral CD8+ cell infiltration (P < 0.001), as well as with the severity of tumor-associated inflammation (P < 0.001). In neuroendocrine carcinomas, tumor-associated inflammation and PD-L1 positivity in immune cells correlated with prolonged survival and the latter factor was also an independent prognosticator (P < 0.01, hazard ratio 0.4 for overall survival, P < 0.001 hazard ratio 0.4 for disease-free survival). Taken together, in neuroendocrine tumors, antitumor inflammatory response and PD-L1 expression are largely restricted to neuroendocrine carcinomas, and in this tumor entity, PD-L1 expression in inflammatory cells is positively correlated to patient survival.

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Atsuko Kasajima, Marianne Pavel, Silvia Darb-Esfahani, Aurelia Noske, Albrecht Stenzinger, Hironobu Sasano, Manfred Dietel, Carsten Denkert, Christoph Röcken, Bertram Wiedenmann, and Wilko Weichert

Clinical trials indicate efficacy of drugs inhibiting the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in the treatment of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP-NET); however, information on detailed expression and activity patterns of mTOR in these tumours is sparse. We investigated the expression of mTOR and expression as well as phosphorylation of its downstream targets 4EBP1, S6K and eIF4E in a cohort of 99 human GEP-NET by immunohistochemistry. We correlated our findings with clinicopathological variables and patient prognosis. We found that 61, 93, 80, 69, 57 and 79% of GEP-NET were positive for mTOR, 4EBP1, cytoplasmic phospho-4EBP1 (p-4EBP1), nuclear p-4EBP1, phospho-S6K (p-S6K) and phospho-eIF4E (p-eIF4E) respectively. mTOR expression and activity were higher in foregut than in midgut tumours. In foregut tumours, expression of mTOR was higher when distant metastases were present (P=0.035). Strong mTOR activity was associated with higher proliferative capacity. In patients with stage IV midgut tumours, strong p-S6K expression was associated with poor disease-specific survival (P=0.048). In conclusion, mTOR shows considerable variations in expression and activity patterns in GEP-NET in dependence of tumour location and metastatic status. We hypothesise that these differences in mTOR expression and activity might possibly influence response to mTOR inhibitors.