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Gregory A Kaltsas, Jane Evanson, Alexandra Chrisoulidou and Ashley B Grossman

The sellar and parasellar region is an anatomically complex area where a number of neoplastic, inflammatory, infectious, developmental and vascular diseases can develop. Although most sellar lesions are due to pituitary adenomas, a number of other pathologies involving the parasellar region can present in a similar manner. The diagnosis of such lesions involves a multidisciplinary approach, and detailed endocrinological, ophthalmological, neuroimaging, neurological and finally histological studies are required. Correct diagnosis prior to any intervention is essential as the treatment of choice will be different for each disorder, particularly in the case of primary malignant parasellar tumours. The complexity of structures that define the parasellar region can produce a variety of neoplastic processes, the malignant potential of which relies on histological grading. In the majority of parasellar tumours, a multimodal therapeutic approach is frequently necessary including surgery, radiotherapy, primary or adjuvant medical treatment and replacement of apparent endocrine deficits. Disease-specific medical therapies are mandatory in order to prevent recurrence or further tumour growth. This is particularly important as neoplastic lesions of the parasellar region tend to recur after prolonged follow-up, even when optimally treated. Apart from the type of treatment, identification of clinical and radiological features that could predict patients with different prognosis seems necessary in order to identify high-risk patients. Due to their rarity, central registration of parasellar tumours is required in order to be able to provide evidence-based diagnostic and mainly therapeutic approaches.

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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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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.

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Anna Angelousi, Georgios K Dimitriadis, Georgios Zografos, Svenja Nölting, Gregory Kaltsas and Ashley Grossman

Tumourigenesis is a relatively common event in endocrine tissues. Currently, specific guidelines have been developed for common malignant endocrine tumours, which also incorporate advances in molecular targeted therapies (MTT), as in thyroid cancer and in gastrointestinal neuroendocrine malignancies. However, there is little information regarding the role and efficacy of MTT in the relatively rare malignant endocrine tumours mainly involving the adrenal medulla, adrenal cortex, pituitary, and parathyroid glands. Due to the rarity of these tumours and the lack of prospective studies, current guidelines are mostly based on retrospective data derived from surgical, locoregional and ablative therapies, and studies with systemic chemotherapy. In addition, in many of these malignancies the prognosis remains poor with individual patients responding differently to currently available treatments, necessitating the development of new personalised therapeutic strategies. Recently, major advances in the molecular understanding of endocrine tumours based on genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptome analysis have emerged, resulting in new insights into their pathogenesis and molecular pathology. This in turn has led to the use of novel MTTs in increasing numbers of patients. In this review, we aim to present currently existing and evolving data using MTT in the treatment of adrenal, pituitary and malignant parathyroid tumours, and explore the current utility and effectiveness of such therapies and their future evolution.

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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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Gregory Kaltsas, Ioannis I Androulakis, Wouter W de Herder and Ashley B Grossman

Neuroendocrine tumours may be either benign or malignant tumours, and have the ability to synthesise and secrete biologically active substances characteristic of the cell of origin that can cause distinct clinical syndromes. The term ‘paraneoplastic syndromes’ (PNSs) is used to denote syndromes secondary to substances secreted from tumours not related to their specific organ or tissue of origin and/or production of autoantibodies against tumour cells; such syndromes are mainly associated with hormonal and neurological symptoms. Appreciation of the presence of such syndromes is important as clinical presentation, if not identified, may delay the diagnosis of the underlying neoplasia. Conversely, early recognition can allow for more rapid diagnosis, particularly as the coexistence of a neoplasm with a clinical or biochemical marker offers an additional determinant of tumour status/progression. PNSs can complicate the patient's clinical course, response to treatment, impact prognosis and even be confused as metastatic spread. Their diagnosis involves a multidisciplinary approach, and detailed endocrinological, neurological, radiological and histological studies are required. Correct diagnosis is essential as the treatment of choice will be different for each disorder, particularly in the case of malignant tumours; it is therefore important to develop appropriate means to correctly identify and localise these tumours. Clinical awareness and the incorporation into clinical practise of 111In-octreotide scintigraphy, chromogranin A and other evolving biochemical marker measurement techniques have substantially contributed to the identification of patients harbouring such syndromes. Disease-specific medical therapies are mandatory in order to prevent recurrence and/or further tumour growth. Owing to their rarity, central registration of these syndromes is very helpful in order to be able to provide evidence-based diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

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Gregory A Kaltsas, Janet L Cunningham, Sture E Falkmer, Lars Grimelius and Apostolos V Tsolakis

Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and IGF1 are both expressed in a variety of tumours and are involved in tumourigenesis. However, information about their expression in the gastrointestinal (GI) neuroendocrine (NE) cells and tumours is mainly limited, with the exception of midgut carcinoids where abundant CTGF expression has been demonstrated. Normal mucosa specimens from stomach and ileum, as well as tumour tissue specimens from gastric NE tumours (GNETs; n=58) and midgut NETs (n=38) were included. Immunohistochemical techniques were used to investigate the possible expression of CTGF and IGF1 in GI NE cells and tumours. The latter results were correlated with various clinico-biochemical and histopathological variables. CTGF was expressed in a proportion of NE cells of the normal GI mucosa but not in enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells, whereas IGF1 was undetectable. CTGF was absent in the foci of ECL cell hyperplasia, and in most of the poorly differentiated carcinomas, but present in some GNETs (mainly in type III ECL cell carcinoids (ECL-CCs)) and in all but one midgut NETs. CTGF correlated with tumour stage in well-differentiated GNETs and with size larger than 1 cm but only in the subgroup of type I ECL-CCs. IGF1 was detected in the foci of ECL cell hyperplasia and in all GI NETs. These findings suggest that both CTGF and IGF1 may be involved in the neoplastic transformation of GI NE cells, whereas IGF1 may play an important role even at early stage.

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Anna Angelousi, Eva Kassi, Narjes Ansari-Nasiri, Harpal Randeva, Gregory Kaltsas and George Chrousos

Circadian rhythms at a central and peripheral level are operated by transcriptional/translational feedback loops involving a set of genes called ‘clock genes’ that have been implicated in the development of several diseases, including malignancies. Dysregulation of the Clock system can influence cancer susceptibility by regulating DNA damage and repair mechanisms, as well as apoptosis. A number of oncogenic pathways can be dysregulated via clock genes’ epigenetic alterations, including hypermethylation of clock genes’ promoters or variants of clock genes. Clock gene disruption has been studied in breast, lung and prostate cancer, and haematological malignancies. However, it is still not entirely clear whether clock gene disruption is the cause or the consequence of tumourigenesis and data in endocrine neoplasms are scarce. Recent findings suggest that clock genes are implicated in benign and malignant adrenocortical neoplasias. They have been also associated with follicular and papillary thyroid carcinomas and parathyroid adenomas, as well as pituitary adenomas and craniopharyngiomas. Dysregulation of clock genes is also encountered in ovarian and testicular tumours and may also be related with their susceptibility to chemotherapeutic agents. The most common clock genes that are implicated in endocrine neoplasms are PER1, CRY1; in most cases their expression is downregulated in tumoural compared to normal tissues. Although there is still a lot to be done for the better understanding of the role of clock genes in endocrine tumourigenenesis, existing evidence could guide research and help identify novel therapeutic targets aiming mainly at the peripheral components of the clock gene system.

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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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Michail Kaklamanos, Ioannis Karoumpalis, Charitini Salla, Dimitrios Thomas, George Kanakis, Krystallenia Alexandraki, Stavros Sougioultzis, Evanthia Diakatou, George Kontogeorgos and Gregory Kaltsas