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Daniela Molè, Teresa Gagliano, Erica Gentilin, Federico Tagliati, Claudio Pasquali, Maria Rosaria Ambrosio, Giancarlo Pansini, Ettore C degli Uberti, and Maria Chiara Zatelli

Dysregulation of the protein kinase C (PKC) signaling pathway has been implicated in tumor progression. In this study, we investigate the effects of a PKC inhibitor, Enzastaurin, in human pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (PNN) primary cultures and in the human pancreatic endocrine cancer cell line, BON1. To this aim six human PNN dispersed in primary cultures and BON1 cells were treated without or with 1–10 μM Enzastaurin and/or 100 nM IGF1 in the presence or absence of serum. Cell viability and apoptosis were evaluated after 48–72 h; Chromogranin A (CgA) and/or insulin secretion was assessed after 6 h of incubation. PKC expression was investigated by immunofluorescence and western blot. We found that Enzastaurin significantly reduced human PNN primary culture cell viability, as well as CgA and insulin secretion. Moreover, in the BON1 cell line Enzastaurin inhibited cell proliferation at 5 and 10 μM by inducing caspase-mediated apoptosis, and reduced phosphorylation of glycogen synthetase kinase 3β (GSK3β) and of Akt, both downstream targets of PKC pathway and pharmacodynamic markers for Enzastaurin. In addition, Enzastaurin blocked the stimulatory effect of IGF1 on cell proliferation, and reduced CgA expression and secretion in BON1 cells. Two different PKC isoforms are expressed at different levels and have partially different subcellular localization in BON1 cells. In conclusion, Enzastaurin reduces cell proliferation by inducing apoptosis, with a mechanism likely involving GSK3β signaling, and inhibits secretory activity in PNN in vitro models, suggesting that Enzastaurin might represent a possible medical treatment of human PNN.

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Silvia Pizzi, Cinzia Azzoni, Elisa Tamburini, Lorena Bottarelli, Nicoletta Campanini, Tiziana D'Adda, Giovanni Fellegara, Tu Vinh Luong, Claudio Pasquali, Giulio Rossi, Gianfranco Delle Fave, Roberta Camisa, Cesare Bordi, and Guido Rindi

The role of Wnt pathway in digestive endocrine tumours is debated. The aim of this work is to investigate key players in Wnt pathway by a multimodal approach. Sixty cases (49 well-differentiated and 11 poorly differentiated) were investigated for methylation of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) and E-cadherin promoters, the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at APC locus and β -catenin and E-cadherin expression by immunohistochemistry. Tumours showing altered β-catenin localization were tested for β -catenin and APC mutations. APC promoter methylation was restricted to gastroduodenal tumours (21 out of 59, 36%), prevalent in poorly differentiated carcinomas (P=0.042) and correlating with aggressive features (high histology grade, P<0.02; tumour death, P=0.026; high fractional allelic loss, P=0.002, in turn correlating with short survival, P=0.017). LOH at APC locus was found in 14 out of 53 cases (26%, 10 gastroduodenal and 4 colorectal), prevalent in poorly differentiated carcinomas (P=0.002) and correlating with histology grade (P=0.012). β -catenin abnormal expression was found in 41 out of 54 cases (76%), with nuclear staining correlating with APC alteration (P=0.047) and short survival (P=0.006). APC, but not β -catenin, gene mutations were found (7 out of 35 tumours), 4 of which in the midgut. E-cadherin promoter methylation was rarely detected (2 out of 52 cases), with cytoplasmic expression in 18 out of 43 cases (42%), not correlating with any clinico-pathological feature. In conclusion, Wnt pathway alterations, as represented by abnormal β-catenin localization, are common events in digestive endocrine tumours, but only nuclear expression correlates with tumour aggressiveness. Though with different alteration mechanisms according to anatomical site, APC plays a major role in Wnt pathway activation and in determining the high chromosomal instability observed in aggressive endocrine carcinomas.

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Chiara Borga, Carlo Alberto Dal Pozzo, Elisabetta Trevellin, Francesca Bergamo, Sabina Murgioni, Anna Caterina Milanetto, Claudio Pasquali, Umberto Cillo, Giada Munari, Chiara Martini, Eugenio De Carlo, Vittorina Zagonel, Vincenza Guzzardo, Gianmaria Pennelli, Angelo Paolo Dei Tos, Roberto Vettor, and Matteo Fassan

The knowledge of the molecular landscape of ileal neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is affected by the lack of systematic studies investigating intra-tumoral heterogeneity. In this study, intra-tumoral heterogeneity was investigated in 27 primary ileal G1-NETs and their matched nodal and liver metastases in order to assess the tumor grading, the expression status of two somatostatin receptor isoforms (i.e. SSTR2A and SSTR5) and mTOR signaling dysregulation (ph-mTOR, ph-p70S6K, ph-4EBP1, PTEN and miR-21). Among the 27 G1 primary tumors, 4 shifted to G2 in the matched liver metastasis. Although mTOR activation was pretty consistent between primary and secondary malignancies, mTOR effectors (ph-p70S6K and ph-4EBP1) were overexpressed in matched liver metastases, whereas PTEN expression profile changed in only two cases. MiR-21 was significantly up-regulated in the metastatic setting. Although SSTRs expression was present in most of the primary tumors and matched metastasis, we found SSTR5 expression to be significantly increased in liver metastases. Notably, SSTRs expression was heterogeneous within the same lesions in most of the lesions. Overall, despite primary and metastatic ileal NETs show a similar molecular landscape, tumor grading and mTOR signaling pathway may diverge in the metastatic setting, thus affecting prognosis and treatment.