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Diana E Benn, Bruce G Robinson, and Roderick J Clifton-Bligh

The paraganglioma (PGL) syndromes types 1–5 are autosomal dominant disorders characterized by familial predisposition to PGLs, phaeochromocytomas (PCs), renal cell cancers, gastrointestinal stromal tumours and, rarely, pituitary adenomas. Each syndrome is associated with mutation in a gene encoding a particular subunit (or assembly factor) of succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx). The clinical manifestations of these syndromes are protean: patients may present with features of catecholamine excess (including the classic triad of headache, sweating and palpitations), or with symptoms from local tumour mass, or increasingly as an incidental finding on imaging performed for some other purpose. As genetic testing for these syndromes becomes more widespread, presymptomatic diagnosis is also possible, although penetrance of disease in these syndromes is highly variable and tumour development does not clearly follow a predetermined pattern. PGL1 syndrome (SDHD) and PGL2 syndrome (SDHAF2) are notable for high frequency of multifocal tumour development and for parent-of-origin inheritance: disease is almost only ever manifest in subjects inheriting the defective allele from their father. PGL4 syndrome (SDHB) is notable for an increased risk of malignant PGL or PC. PGL3 syndrome (SDHC) and PGL5 syndrome (SDHA) are less common and appear to be associated with lower penetrance of tumour development. Although these syndromes are all associated with SDH deficiency, few genotype–phenotype relationships have yet been established, and indeed it is remarkable that such divergent phenotypes can arise from disruption of a common molecular pathway. This article reviews the clinical presentations of these syndromes, including their component tumours and underlying genetic basis.

Free access

Justin S Gundara, JingTing Zhao, Bruce G Robinson, and Stan B Sidhu

Autophagy is an increasingly well-characterised process of cell component auto-digestion and recycling thought necessary for cellular subsistence. As we gain a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms underlying autophagy, its relevance to human disease and therapeutic potential are being clarified. This review summarises the evidence implicating autophagy in the pathogenesis and potential treatment of malignant disease. In addition, we explore the molecular role of microRNAs as key regulators in what we propose should now become known as ‘oncophagy’.

Free access

Venessa Hm Tsang, Matti Gild, Anthony Glover, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Bruce G Robinson

COVID-19 has modified the way we practice medicine. For thyroid cancer, there have been several significant impacts. Firstly, diagnosis has been delayed due to social isolation, reduced access to investigations and staff redeployment. Secondly, treatment planning has needed to take into account the risk to patients and/or staff of nosocomial transmission of the virus. Finally, there are some specific concerns with respect to interactions between the virus, its treatments and cancer. This mini review aims to address each of these impacts and to provide some guidance and confidence to our patients and colleagues during this challenging time.

Free access

Nunki Hassan, Jing Ting Zhao, Anthony Glover, Bruce G Robinson, and Stan B Sidhu

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) has high recurrence rates and poor prognosis with limited response to conventional cancer therapy. Recent contributions of high-throughput transcriptomic profiling identified microRNA-497 (miR-497) as significantly underexpressed, while lncRNA MALAT1 (metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1) as overexpressed in ACC. miR-497 is located in the chromosomal region 17p13.1, in which there is a high frequency of loss of heterozygosity in ACC. We aim to investigate the interaction of miR-497 and MALAT1 in ACC and its functional roles in the process of tumourigenesis. In this study, we demonstrated miR-497 post-transcriptionally repressed MALAT1 while MALAT1 also competes for miR-497 binding to its molecular target, EIF4E (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E). We showed that overexpression of miR-497 and silencing of MALAT1 suppressed cellular proliferation and induced cell cycle arrest through downregulation of EIF4E expression. Furthermore, MALAT1 directly binds to SFPQ (splicing factor proline and glutamine rich) protein, indicating its multifaceted roles in ACC pathophysiology. This is the first study to identify the feedback axis of miR-497-MALAT1/EIF4E in ACC tumourigenesis, providing novel insights into the molecular functions of noncoding RNAs in ACC.

Free access

Venessa H M Tsang, Matti Gild, Anthony Glover, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Bruce G Robinson

COVID-19 has modified the way we practice medicine. For thyroid cancer, there have been several significant impacts. First, the diagnosis has been delayed due to social isolation, reduced access to investigations and staff redeployment. Secondly, treatment planning has needed to take into account the risk to patients and/or staff of nosocomial transmission of the virus. Finally, there are some specific concerns with respect to interactions between the virus, its treatments and cancer. This mini-review aims to address each of these impacts and to provide some guidance and confidence to our patients and colleagues during this challenging time.

Free access

Ramona Dadu, Rozita Bagheri-Yarmand, Matthew D Ringel, Elizabeth G Grubbs, Mark Zafereo, Gilbert Cote, Robert F Gagel, Bruce G Robinson, Kenna R Shaw, and Mimi I Hu

The 16th International Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Workshop (MEN2019) held in Houston, TX, USA, focused on emerging topics in the pathogenesis and therapy of malignant endocrine tumors associated with MEN syndromes. With MEN-2 syndromes, the most common malignancy is medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). In the spirit of the original MEN meeting workshop model, the conference included didactic lectures and interactive working groups of clinicians and researchers focused on the state of science in MTC and ongoing challenges or unmet needs in the understanding of MTC and to develop strategies to address these issues.

Free access

Jia-Jing Lee, Amy Y M Au, Theodoros Foukakis, Michela Barbaro, Nimrod Kiss, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, Johan Staaf, Åke Borg, Leigh Delbridge, Bruce G Robinson, Göran Wallin, Anders Höög, and Catharina Larsson

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare but highly aggressive disease with largely unexplained etiology and molecular pathogenesis. In this study, we analyzed genome-wide copy number changes, BRAF (V-raf sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1) mutations, and p16 and cyclin D1 expressions in a panel of ATC primary tumors. Three ATCs harbored the common BRAF mutation V600E. Using array-comparative genomic hybridisation (array-CGH), several distinct recurrent copy number alterations were revealed including gains in 16p11.2, 20q11.2, and 20q13.12. Subsequent fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed recurrent locus gain of UBCH10 in 20q13.12 and Cyclin D1 (CCND1) in 11q13. The detection of a homozygous loss encompassing the CDKN2A locus in 9p21.3 motivated the examination of p16 protein expression, which was undetectable in 24/27 ATCs (89%). Based on the frequent gain in 11q13 (41%; n=11), the role of CCND1 was further investigated. Expression of cyclin D1 protein was observed at varying levels in 18/27 ATCs (67%). The effect of CCND1 on thyroid cell proliferation was assessed in vitro in ATC cells by means of siRNA and in thyroid cells after CCND1 transfection. In summary, the recurrent chromosomal copy number changes and molecular alterations identified in this study may provide an insight into the pathogenesis and development of ATC.

Free access

Michael A Hahn, Viive M Howell, Anthony J Gill, Adele Clarkson, Graham Weaire-Buchanan, Bruce G Robinson, Leigh Delbridge, Oliver Gimm, Wolfgang D Schmitt, Bin T Teh, and Deborah J Marsh

The tumor suppressor HRPT2/CDC73 is mutated in constitutive DNA from patients with the familial disorder hyperparathyroidism–jaw tumor syndrome and in ∼70% of all parathyroid carcinomas. In a number of HRPT2 mutant tumors however, expression of the encoded protein parafibromin is lost in the absence of a clear second event such as HRPT2 allelic loss or the presence of a second mutation in this tumor suppressor gene. We sought to determine whether hypermethylation of a 713 bp CpG island extending 648 nucleotides upstream of the HRPT2 translational start site and 65 nucleotides into exon 1 might be a mechanism contributing to the loss of expression of parafibromin in parathyroid tumors. Furthermore, we asked whether mutations might be present in the 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) of HRPT2. We investigated a pool of tissue from 3 normal parathyroid glands, as well as 15 individual parathyroid tumor samples including 6 tumors with known HRPT2 mutations, for hypermethylation of the HRPT2 CpG island. Methylation was not identified in any specimens despite complete loss of parafibromin expression in two parathyroid carcinomas with a single detectable HRPT2 mutation and retention of the wild-type HRPT2 allele. Furthermore, no mutations of a likely pathogenic nature were identified in the 5′-UTR of HRPT2. These data strongly suggest that alternative mechanisms such as mutation in HRPT2 intronic regions, additional epigenetic regulation such as histone modifications, or other regulatory inactivation mechanisms such as targeting by microRNAs may play a role in the loss of parafibromin expression.

Free access

Goswin Y Meyer-Rochow, Nicole E Jackson, John V Conaglen, Denis E Whittle, Muthusamy Kunnimalaiyaan, Herbert Chen, Gunnar Westin, Johanna Sandgren, Peter Stålberg, Elham Khanafshar, Daniel Shibru, Quan-Yang Duh, Orlo H Clark, Electron Kebebew, Anthony J Gill, Rory Clifton-Bligh, Bruce G Robinson, Diana E Benn, and Stan B Sidhu

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs (∼22 bp) that post-transcriptionally regulate protein expression and are found to be differentially expressed in a number of human cancers. There is increasing evidence to suggest that miRNAs could be useful in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy. We performed miRNA microarray expression profiling on a cohort of 12 benign and 12 malignant pheochromocytomas and identified a number of differentially expressed miRNAs. These results were validated in a separate cohort of ten benign and ten malignant samples using real-time quantitative RT-PCR; benign samples had a minimum follow-up of at least 2 years. It was found that IGF2 as well as its intronic miR-483-5p was over-expressed, while miR-15a and miR-16 were under-expressed in malignant tumours compared with benign tumours. These miRNAs were found to be diagnostic and prognostic markers for malignant pheochromocytoma. The functional role of miR-15a and miR-16 was investigated in vitro in the rat PC12 pheochromocytoma cell line, and these miRNAs were found to regulate cell proliferation via their effect on cyclin D1 and apoptosis. These data indicate that miRNAs play a pivotal role in the biology of malignant pheochromocytoma, and represent an important class of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets warranting further investigation.

Free access

Trisha Dwight, Aidan Flynn, Kaushalya Amarasinghe, Diana E Benn, Richard Lupat, Jason Li, Daniel L Cameron, Annette Hogg, Shiva Balachander, Ida L M Candiloro, Stephen Q Wong, Bruce G Robinson, Anthony T Papenfuss, Anthony J Gill, Alexander Dobrovic, Rodney J Hicks, Roderick J Clifton-Bligh, and Richard W Tothill

Pheochromocytomas (PC) and paragangliomas (PGL) are endocrine tumors for which the genetic and clinicopathological features of metastatic progression remain incompletely understood. As a result, the risk of metastasis from a primary tumor cannot be predicted. Early diagnosis of individuals at high risk of developing metastases is clinically important and the identification of new biomarkers that are predictive of metastatic potential is of high value. Activation of TERT has been associated with a number of malignant tumors, including PC/PGL. However, the mechanism of TERT activation in the majority of PC/PGL remains unclear. As TERT promoter mutations occur rarely in PC/PGL, we hypothesized that other mechanisms – such as structural variations – may underlie TERT activation in these tumors. From 35 PC and four PGL, we identified three primary PCs that developed metastases with elevated TERT expression, each of which lacked TERT promoter mutations and promoter DNA methylation. Using whole genome sequencing, we identified somatic structural alterations proximal to the TERT locus in two of these tumors. In both tumors, the genomic rearrangements led to the positioning of super-enhancers proximal to the TERT promoter, that are likely responsible for the activation of the normally tightly repressed TERT expression in chromaffin cells