Ashley GrossmanCentre for Endocrinology, Barts and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Non-functioning pituitary adenomas, recently alternatively termed pituitary neuroendocrine tumours (NFpitNETs), are mostly benign neoplasms that are not associated with a hormonal hypersecretory syndrome. The clinical spectrum of NFpitNETs varies from completely asymptomatic to the development of panhypopituitarism and manifestations attributed to mass effects on nearby structures. NFpitNETs follow generally an indolent course, but in 5–10% of cases they exhibit more aggressive behaviour, characterised by rapid growth, invasiveness and early recurrence. The initial size of the adenoma, the presence of symptoms and the histological subtype are related to the natural course of NFpitNETs. Active surveillance is usually the strategy of choice in the case of an asymptomatic NFpitNET, while surgical resection is recommended in case of visual and/or neurological abnormalities or rapid tumour growth. Based on previous and emerging data, approximately 50% of patients show tumour growth, while 20% of patients with NF-macroadenomas on active surveillance may require further intervention during a follow-up period of 7 years. Adjuvant radiotherapy is usually considered for large residual tumours or recurrent and/or aggressive adenomas, but there is evidence that medical therapy, especially with cabergoline, can occasionally be beneficial, whereas newer molecular agents are under investigation. Thus, while highly effective medical therapy is awaited, a move towards a more conservative approach seems appropriate, at least until we have better molecular markers of progressiveness.
Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of oncological patients, but its application in various endocrine tumours is rather limited and is mainly used when conventional therapies have failed. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have been employed in progressive adrenocortical carcinoma, primarily utilizing the anti-PD-L1 agent pembrolizumab, obtaining overall response rates ranging between 14% and 23%. In contrast, the response rate in phaeochromocytoma/paraganglioma was substantially less at 9%, considering the small number of patients treated. Similarly, the response rate in advanced differentiated thyroid carcinomas treated with pembrolizumab was also low at 9%, although the combination of ICIs with tyrosine kinase inhibitors showed higher efficacy. Low response rates to ICIs have also been observed in progressive medullary thyroid cancer, except in tumours with a high mutation burden (TMB). Pembrolizumab or spartalizumab can be utilized in patients with high TMB anaplastic thyroid cancer, obtaining better response rates, particularly in patients with high PD-L1 expression. Immunotherapy has also been used in a few cases of parathyroid carcinoma, showing limited antitumour effect. Pituitary carcinomas may exhibit a more favourable response to ICIs compared to aggressive pituitary tumours, particularly corticotroph tumours. Patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumours achieve an overall response rate of 15%, which varies according to the primary tumour site of origin, degree of differentiation, and therapeutic regimen utilised. Future research is needed to evaluate the potential role of immunohistochemical biomarkers, such as programmed death 1/programmed death ligand 1 and TMB, as predictors for the response to immunotherapy. Furthermore, randomised prospective studies could provide more robust data on the efficacy and side effects of ICIs.
Ashley GrossmanDepartment of Endocrinology, OCDEM, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK Neuroendocrine Tumour Unit, Royal Free Hospital, London, UK Centre for Endocrinology, Barts and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
Endocrine organs are metastatic targets for several primary cancers, either through direct extension from nearby tumour cells or dissemination via the venous, arterial and lymphatic routes. Although any endocrine tissue can be affected, most clinically relevant metastases involve the pituitary and adrenal glands with the commonest manifestations being diabetes insipidus and adrenal insufficiency respectively. The most common primary tumours metastasing to the adrenals include melanomas, breast and lung carcinomas, which may lead to adrenal insufficiency in the presence of bilateral adrenal involvement. Breast and lung cancers are the most common primaries metastasing to the pituitary, leading to pituitary dysfunction in approximately 30% of cases. The thyroid gland can be affected by renal, colorectal, lung and breast carcinomas, and melanomas, but has rarely been associated with thyroid dysfunction. Pancreatic metastasis can lead to exo-/endocrine insufficiency with renal carcinoma being the most common primary. Most parathyroid metastases originate from breast and lung carcinomas and melanoma. Breast and colorectal cancers are the most frequent ovarian metastases; prostate cancer commonly affects the testes. In the presence of endocrine deficiencies, glucocorticoid replacement for adrenal and pituitary involvement can be life saving. As most metastases to endocrine organs develop in the context of disseminated disease, surgical resection or other local therapies should only be considered to ameliorate symptoms and reduce tumour volume. Although few consensus statements can be made regarding the management of metastases to endocrine tissues because of the heterogeneity of the variable therapies, it is important that clinicians are aware of their presence in diagnosis.