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Gido Snaterse, Jenny A Visser, Wiebke Arlt and Johannes Hofland

Steroid hormones play a central role in the maintenance and progression of prostate cancer. The androgen receptor is the primary driver of tumor cell proliferation and is activated by the androgens testosterone and 5α-dihydrotestosterone. Inhibition of this pathway through medical or surgical castration improves survival in the majority of advanced prostate cancer patients. However, conversion of adrenal androgen precursors and alternative steroidogenic pathways have been found to contribute to tumor progression and resistance to treatment. The emergence of highly accurate detection methods allows us to study steroidogenic mechanisms in more detail, even after treatment with potent steroidogenic inhibitors such as the CYP17A1 inhibitor abiraterone. A clear overview of steroid hormone levels in patients throughout the local, metastatic and castration-resistant stages of prostate cancer and treatment modalities is key toward a better understanding of their role in tumor progression and treatment resistance. In this review, we summarize the currently available data on steroid hormones that have been implicated in the various stages of prostate cancer. Additionally, this review addresses the implications of these findings, highlights important studies in this field and identifies current gaps in literature.

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Habibur P Rahman, Johannes Hofland and Paul A Foster

Prostate cancer is the primary cancer in males, with increasing global incidence rates making this malignancy a significant healthcare burden. Androgens not only promote normal prostate maturity but also influence the development and progression of prostate cancer. Intriguingly, evidence now suggests endogenous and exogenous oestrogens, in the form of phytoestrogens, may be equally as relevant as androgens in prostate cancer growth. The prostate gland has the molecular mechanisms, catalysed by steroid sulphatase (STS), to unconjugate and utilise circulating oestrogens. Furthermore, prostate tissue also expresses enzymes essential for local oestrogen metabolism, including aromatase (CYP19A1) and 3β- and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. Increased expression of these enzymes in malignant prostate tissue compared with normal prostate indicates that oestrogen synthesis is favoured in malignancy and thus may influence tumour progression. In contrast to previous reviews, here we comprehensively explore the epidemiological and scientific evidence on how oestrogens impact prostate cancer, particularly focusing on pre-receptor oestrogen metabolism and subsequent molecular action. We analyse how molecular mechanisms and metabolic pathways involved in androgen and oestrogen synthesis intertwine to alter prostate tissue. Furthermore, we speculate on whether oestrogen receptor status in the prostate affects progression of this malignancy.

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Anela Blažević, Johannes Hofland, Leo J Hofland, Richard A Feelders and Wouter W de Herder

Small intestinal neuroendocrine tumours (SI-NETs) are neoplasms characterized by their ability to secrete biogenic amines and peptides. These cause distinct clinical pathology including carcinoid syndrome, marked by diarrhoea and flushing, as well as fibrosis, notably mesenteric fibrosis. Mesenteric fibrosis often results in significant morbidity by causing intestinal obstruction, oedema and ischaemia. Although advancements have been made to alleviate symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and prolong the survival of patients with SI-NETs, therapeutic options for patients with mesenteric fibrosis are still limited. As improved insight in the complex pathogenesis of mesenteric fibrosis is key to the development of new therapies, we evaluated the literature for known and putative mediators of fibrosis in SI-NETs. In this review, we discuss the tumour microenvironment, growth factors and signalling pathways involved in the complex process of fibrosis development and tumour progression in SI-NETs, in order to elucidate potential new avenues for scientific research and therapies to improve the management of patients suffering from the complications of mesenteric fibrosis.

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Johannes Hofland, Aura D Herrera-Martínez, Wouter T Zandee and Wouter W de Herder

Carcinoid syndrome (CS) is a debilitating disease caused by functional neuroendocrine tumors. Several treatment options are available to alleviate the hormonal symptoms, but their relative efficacy is unknown. Online databases were searched for publications on the treatment of CS symptoms. Independent reviewers assessed relevant publications for study quality and outcome. Meta-analysis of the outcomes of the intervention on CS-related symptoms was stratified by the type of treatment. We found 3682 therapeutic interventions on CS-specific outcomes were collected from 93 studies. Overall, the study qualities were poor with only six randomized controlled clinical trials. The somatostatin analogs octreotide and lanreotide induced symptomatic improvement in 65–72% and biochemical response in 45–46% of patients. An increase in dose or frequency or interclass switch led to a reduction of flushes and/or diarrhea in 72–84% of cases. Retrospective, institutional series showed that liver-directed therapy can improve symptoms in 82% of CS patients with a liver-dominant disease. The serotonin synthesis inhibitor telotristat ethyl reduced bowel movements in 40% of patients with diarrhea refractory to somatostatin analogs. Interferon-alpha controlled CS symptoms in 45–63% of cases. Favorable response has been noted after radionuclide therapy in subgroup analyses of studies not specifically involving CS patients. Chemotherapy and everolimus did not induce a significant response in the CS. We conclude that several treatment lines can be offered to patients suffering from the carcinoid syndrome. Initiation of randomized controlled trials with a primary outcome on carcinoid syndrome symptoms is strongly recommended.

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Anela Blažević, Wouter T Zandee, Gaston J H Franssen, Johannes Hofland, Marie-Louise F van Velthuysen, Leo J Hofland, Richard A Feelders and Wouter W de Herder

Mesenteric fibrosis (MF) surrounding a mesenteric mass is a hallmark feature of small intestinal neuroendocrine tumours (SI-NETs). Since this can induce intestinal obstruction, oedema and ischaemia, prophylactic resection of the primary tumour and mesenteric mass is often recommended. This study assessed the predictors for mesenteric metastasis and fibrosis and the effect of MF and palliative surgery on survival. A retrospective analysis of 559 patients with pathologically proven SI-NET and available CT-imaging data was performed. Clinical characteristics, presence of mesenteric mass and fibrosis on CT imaging and the effect of palliative abdominal surgery on overall survival were assessed. We found that MF was present in 41.4%. Older age, 5-HIAA excretion ≥67 μmol/24 h, serum CgA ≥121.5 μg/L and a mesenteric mass ≥27.5 mm were independent predictors of MF. In patients ≤52 years, mesenteric mass was less often found in women than in men (39% vs 64%, P = 0.002). Corrected for age, tumour grade, CgA and liver metastasis, MF was not a prognostic factor for overall survival. In patients undergoing palliative surgery, metastasectomy of mesenteric mass or prophylactic surgery did not result in survival benefit. In conclusion, we confirmed known predictors of MF and mesenteric mass and suggest a role for sex hormones as women ≤52 years have less often a mesenteric mass. Furthermore, the presence of MF has no effect on survival in a multivariate analysis, and we found no benefit of metastasectomy of mesenteric mass or prophylactic surgery on overall survival.

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Peter M van Koetsveld, Giovanni Vitale, Richard A Feelders, Marlijn Waaijers, Diana M Sprij-Mooij, Ronald R de Krijger, Ernst-Jan M Speel, Johannes Hofland, Steven W J Lamberts, Wouter W de Herder and Leo J Hofland

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive tumor with very poor prognosis. Novel medical treatment opportunities are required. We investigated the effects of interferon-β (IFN-β), alone or in combination with mitotane, on cell growth and cortisol secretion in primary cultures of 13 human ACCs, three adrenal hyperplasias, three adrenal adenomas, and in two ACC cell lines. Moreover, the interrelationship between the effects of IGF2 and IFN-β was evaluated. Mitotane inhibited cell total DNA content/well (representing cell number) in 7/11 (IC50: 38±9.2 μM) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 4.5±0.1 μM). IFN-β reduced cell number in 10/11 (IC50: 83±18 IU/ml) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 7.3±1.5 IU/ml). The effect of IFN-β on cell number included the induction of apoptosis. IFN-β strongly inhibited mRNA expression of STAR, CYP11A1, CYP17A1, and CYP11B1. Mitotane and IFN-β induced an additive inhibitory effect on cell number and cortisol secretion. IGF2 (10 nM) inhibited apoptosis and increased cell number and cortisol secretion. These effects were counteracted by IFN-β treatment. Finally, IFN-β inhibited IGF2 secretion and mRNA expression. In conclusion, IFN-β is a potent inhibitor of ACC cell growth in human primary ACC cultures, partially mediated by an inhibition of the effects of IGF2, as well as its production. The increased sensitivity of ACC cells to mitotane induced by treatment with IFN-β may open the opportunity for combined treatment regimens with lower mitotane doses. The inhibition of the expression of steroidogenic enzymes by IFN-β is a novel mechanism that may explain its inhibitory effect on cortisol production.