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Camilo Jimenez, Sasan Fazeli and Alejandro Román-Gonzalez

Metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas are rare, highly vascular tumors that spread primarily to the lymph nodes, skeletal tissue, lungs, and liver. Tumor morbidity is related to their size, location, hormonal activity, vascular nature, and rate of progression. Systemic therapies for this indication are limited. Only high-specific-activity iodine-131 metaiodobenzylguanidine is approved in the Unites States for treatment of these patients, and not all patients are candidates for this radiopharmaceutical. Antiangiogenic medications are currently being evaluated in prospective clinical trials for patients with metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas, and preliminary results have been encouraging. Antiangiogenic medications frequently offer antineoplastic effects with sometimes durable responses. However, cardiovascular toxicity and the development of tumor resistance may limit their efficacy. Experience derived from clinical trials is being used to identify mechanisms to effectively improve drug toxicity and possibly prevent the emergence of resistance. Therefore, antiangiogenic medications represent a therapeutic option for patients with metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. Furthermore, in the world of oncology, there is strong scientific interest in the development of clinical trials that combine antiangiogenic medications with other modalities such as immunotherapy, radiopharmaceuticals, and hypoxia inhibitors since these combinations may substantially enhance clinical outcomes, including survivorship. In this review, we examine the progress made to date on antiangiogenic treatments for patients with metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

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Patricia L M Dahia, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, Anne-Paule Gimenez-Roqueplo, Mercedes Robledo and Camilo Jimenez

Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are adrenal or extra-adrenal autonomous nervous system-derived tumors. Most PPGLs are benign, but approximately 15% progress with metastases (mPPGLs). mPPGLs are more likely to occur in patients with large pheochromocytomas, sympathetic paragangliomas, and norepinephrine-secreting tumors. Older subjects, those with larger tumors and synchronous metastases, advance more rapidly. Germline mutations of SDHB, FH, and possibly SLC25A11, or somatic MAML3 disruptions relate to a higher risk for metastatic disease. However, it is unclear whether these mutations predict outcome. Once diagnosed, there are no well-established predictors of outcome in mPPGLs, and aggressive tumors have few therapeutic options and limited response. High-specific activity (HSA) metaiodine-benzyl-guanidine (MIBG) is the first FDA approved treatment and shows clinical effectiveness for MIBG-avid mPPGLs. Ongoing and future investigations should involve validation of emerging candidate outcome biomarkers, including somatic ATRX, TERT, and microRNA disruptions and identification of novel prognostic indicators. Long-term effect of HSA-MIBG and the role of other radiopharmaceuticals should be investigated. Novel trials targeting molecular events prevalent in SDHB/FH mutant tumors, such as activated hypoxia inducible factor 2 (HIF2), angiogenesis, or other mitochondrial defects that might confer unique vulnerability to these tumors should be developed and initiated. As therapeutic options are anticipated to expand, multi-institutional collaborations and well-defined clinical and molecular endpoints will be critical to achieve higher success rates in improving care for patients with mPPGLs.

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Libero Santarpia, George A Calin, Liana Adam, Lei Ye, Alfredo Fusco, Serena Giunti, Christina Thaller, Laura Paladini, Xinna Zhang, Camilo Jimenez, Francesco Trimarchi, Adel K El-Naggar and Robert F Gagel

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small, non-coding RNAs that control gene expression by targeting mRNA and triggering either translational repression or RNA degradation. The objective of our study was to evaluate the involvement of miRNAs in human medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and to identify the markers of metastatic cells and aggressive tumour behaviour. Using matched primary and metastatic tumour samples, we identified a subset of miRNAs aberrantly regulated in metastatic MTC. Deregulated miRNAs were confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and validated by in situ hybridisation on a large independent set of primary and metastatic MTC samples. Our results uncovered ten miRNAs that were significantly expressed and deregulated in metastatic tumours: miR-10a, miR-200b/-200c, miR-7 and miR-29c were down-regulated and miR-130a, miR-138, miR-193a-3p, miR-373 and miR-498 were up-regulated. Bioinformatic approaches revealed potential miRNA targets and signals involved in metastatic MTC pathways. Migration, proliferation and invasion assays were performed in cell lines treated with miR-200 antagomirs to ascertain a direct role for this miRNA in MTC tumourigenesis. We show that the members of miR-200 family regulate the expression of E-cadherin by directly targeting ZEB1 and ZEB2 mRNA and through the enhanced expression of tumour growth factor β (TGFβ)-2 and TGFβ-1. Overall, the treated cells shifted to a mesenchymal phenotype, thereby acquiring an aggressive phenotype with increased motility and invasion. Our data identify a robust miRNA signature associated with metastatic MTC and distinct biological processes, e.g., TGFβ signalling pathway, providing new potential insights into the mechanisms of MTC metastasis.

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Maya B Lodish, Karen T Adams, Thanh T Huynh, Tamara Prodanov, Alex Ling, Clara Chen, Suzanne Shusterman, Camilo Jimenez, Maria Merino, Marybeth Hughes, Kendall W Cradic, Dragana Milosevic, Ravinder J Singh, Constantine A Stratakis and Karel Pacak

Organ of Zuckerkandl paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare neuroendocrine tumors that are derived from chromaffin cells located around the origin of the inferior mesenteric artery extending to the level of the aortic bifurcation. Mutations in the genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDH) B, C, and D (SDHx) have been associated with PGLs, but their contribution to PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl PGLs is not known. We aimed to describe the clinical presentation of patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl and investigate the prevalence of SDHx mutations and other genetic defects among them. The clinical characteristics of 14 patients with PGL of the organ of Zuckerkandl were analyzed retrospectively; their DNA was tested for SDHx mutations and deletions. Eleven out of 14 (79%) patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl were found to have mutations in the SDHB (9) or SDHD (2) genes; one patient was found to have the Carney–Stratakis syndrome (CSS), and his PGL was discovered during surgery for gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Our results show that SDHx mutations are prevalent in pediatric and adult PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl. Patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl should be screened for SDHx mutations and the CSS; in addition, asymptomatic carriers of an SDHx mutation among the relatives of affected patients may benefit from tumor screening for early PGL detection.