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Matthew H Kulke

Traditional therapies have offered patients with advanced gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors limited benefit. Selected patients with hepatic metastases may benefit from surgical debulking, embolization, or other ablative therapies. While somatostatin analogs are highly effective in controlling symptoms of hormonal secretion, they are only rarely associated with tumor regression. The clinical benefit associated with the administration of systemic agents such as interferon-α or cytotoxic chemotherapy is less clear, and the widespread use of such regimens has been limited by their relatively modest anti-tumor activity, as well as concerns regarding their potential toxicity. The mixed clinical results seen with these agents in neuroendocrine tumors have led to great interest in the development of novel treatment approaches for patients with advanced disease. Recent clinical studies of novel agents, particularly those targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor pathway and mammalian target of rapamycin, have demonstrated promising activity in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Ongoing randomized studies should help better define the role these and other targeted agents will play in the future treatment of patients with this disease.

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Eva-Maria Duerr, Yusuke Mizukami, Aylwin Ng, Ramnik J Xavier, Hirotoshi Kikuchi, Vikram Deshpande, Andrew L Warshaw , Jonathan Glickman, Matthew H Kulke, and Daniel C Chung

Current classifications of human gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are inconsistent and based upon histopathologic but not molecular features. We sought to compare a molecular classification with the World Health Organization (WHO) histologic classification, identify genes that may be important for tumor progression, and determine whether gastrointestinal NETs (GI-NETs) differ in their molecular profile from pancreatic NETs (PNETs). DNA microarray analysis was performed to identify differentially expressed genes in PNETs and GI-NETs. Confirmation of expression levels was obtained by quantitative real-time PCR. Immunoblotting and mutational analysis were performed for selected genes. Hierarchical clustering of 19 PNETs revealed a ‘benign’ and ‘malignant’ cluster that corresponded well with the WHO categories of well-differentiated endocrine tumor (WDET) and well-differentiated endocrine carcinoma (WDEC) respectively. FEV, adenylate cyclase 2 (ADCY2), nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, member 2 (NR4A2), and growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible, beta (GADD45b) were the most highly up-regulated genes in the malignant group of PNETs. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) was expressed in both WDETs and WDECs, and phosphorylation of PDGFR-β was observed in 83% of all PNETs. Malignant ileal GI-NETs exhibited a distinctive gene expression profile, and extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM), vesicular monoamine member 1 (VMAT1), galectin 4 (LGALS4), and RET Proto-oncogene (RET) were highly up-regulated genes. Gene expression profiles reflect the current WHO classification and can distinguish benign from malignant PNETs and also PNETs from GI-NETs. This suggests that molecular profiling may enhance tumor classification schemes. Potential gene targets have also been identified, and PDGFR and RET are candidates that may represent novel therapeutic targets.

Free access

Yeting Du, Monica Ter-Minassian, Lauren Brais, Nichole Brooks, Amanda Waldron, Jennifer A Chan, Xihong Lin, Peter Kraft, David C Christiani, and Matthew H Kulke

The etiology of neuroendocrine tumors remains poorly defined. Although neuroendocrine tumors are in some cases associated with inherited genetic syndromes, such syndromes are rare. The majority of neuroendocrine tumors are thought to be sporadic. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify potential genetic risk factors for sporadic neuroendocrine tumors. Using germline DNA from blood specimens, we genotyped 909,622 SNPs using the Affymetrix 6.0 GeneChip, in a cohort comprising 832 neuroendocrine tumor cases from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital and 4542 controls from the Harvard School of Public Health. An additional 241 controls from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were used for quality control. We assessed risk associations in the overall cohort, and in neuroendocrine tumor subgroups. We identified no potential risk associations in the cohort overall. In the small intestine neuroendocrine tumor subgroup, comprising 293 cases, we identified risk associations with three SNPs on chromosome 12, all in strong LD. The three SNPs are located upstream of ELK3, a transcription factor implicated in angiogenesis. We did not identify clear risk associations in the bronchial or pancreatic neuroendocrine subgroups. This large-scale study provides initial evidence that presumed sporadic small intestine neuroendocrine tumors may have a genetic etiology. Our results provide a basis for further exploring the role of genes implicated in this analysis, and for replication studies to confirm the observed associations. Additional studies to evaluate potential genetic risk factors for sporadic pancreatic and bronchial neuroendocrine tumors are warranted.

Free access

Jennifer A Chan, David P Ryan, Andrew X Zhu, Thomas A Abrams, Brian M Wolpin, Paige Malinowski, Eileen M Regan, Charles S Fuchs, and Matthew H Kulke

Octreotide and everolimus have demonstrated efficacy in neuroendocrine tumors. Pasireotide is a somatostatin analog with binding affinity to a broader range of somatostatin receptor subtypes than octreotide. We performed a phase I study to evaluate the safety and feasibility of combining pasireotide with everolimus in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Cohorts of patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors were treated with escalating doses of pasireotide (600–1200 μg s.c. b.i.d., followed by pasireotide LAR 40–60 mg i.m. monthly) and everolimus (5–10 mg daily). Twenty-one patients were treated. Dose-limiting toxicities consisting of grade 3 rash and grade 3 diarrhea were observed. Twelve patients were safely treated at the maximum protocol-defined dose level of pasireotide LAR 60 mg i.m. monthly and everolimus 10 mg daily. Hyperglycemia was common; other observed toxicities were consistent with the known toxicities of either agent alone. Partial tumor response was observed in one patient; 17 (81%) patients experienced at least some tumor regression as their best response to therapy. In conclusion, pasireotide LAR 60 mg i.m. monthly in combination with everolimus 10 mg daily is feasible and associated with preliminary evidence of antitumor activity in patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Further studies evaluating this combination are warranted.

Free access

Monica Ter-Minassian, Jennifer A Chan, Susanne M Hooshmand, Lauren K Brais, Anastassia Daskalova, Rachel Heafield, Laurie Buchanan, Zhi Rong Qian, Charles S Fuchs, Xihong Lin, David C Christiani, and Matthew H Kulke

The rarity of neuroendocrine tumors (NET) has contributed to a paucity of large epidemiologic studies of patients with this condition. We characterized presenting symptoms and clinical outcomes in a prospective database of over 900 patients with NET. We used data from patient questionnaires and the medical record to characterize presenting symptoms, disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS). The majority of patients in this database had gastroenteropancreatic NET. The median duration of patient-reported symptoms before diagnosis was 3.4 months; 19.5% reported durations from 1 to 5 years, 2.5% from 5 to 10 years, and 2% >10 years. The median DFS among patients with resected small bowel NET or pancreatic NET (panNET) was 5.8 and 4.1 years respectively. After correcting for left truncation bias, the median OS was 7.9 years for advanced small bowel NET and 3.9 years for advanced panNET. Chromogranin A (CGA) above twice the upper limit of normal was associated with shorter survival times (hazard ratios 2.8 (1.9, 4.0) P<0.001) in patients with metastatic disease, regardless of tumor subtype. Our data suggest that while most NET patients are diagnosed soon after symptom onset, prolonged symptom duration before diagnosis is a prominent feature of this disease. Though limited to observations from a large referral center, our observations confirm the prognostic value of CGA and suggest that median survival durations may be shorter than that reported in other institutional databases.

Free access

Matthew H Kulke, Thomas O'Dorisio, Alexandria Phan, Emily Bergsland, Linda Law, Phillip Banks, Joel Freiman, Kenny Frazier, Jessica Jackson, James C Yao, Larry Kvols, Pablo Lapuerta, Brian Zambrowicz, Douglas Fleming, and Arthur Sands

Serotonin produced by neuroendocrine tumors is believed to be a principal cause of the diarrhea in carcinoid syndrome. We assessed the safety and efficacy of telotristat etiprate, an oral serotonin synthesis inhibitor, in patients with diarrhea associated with carcinoid syndrome. In this prospective, randomized study, patients with evidence of carcinoid tumor and ≥4 bowel movements (BMs)/day despite stable-dose octreotide LAR depot therapy were enrolled in sequential, escalating, cohorts of four patients per cohort. In each cohort, one patient was randomly assigned to placebo and three patients to telotristat etiprate, at 150, 250, 350, or 500 mg three times a day (tid). In a subsequent cohort, one patient was assigned to placebo and six patients to telotristat etiprate 500 mg tid. Patients were assessed for safety, BM frequency (daily diary), 24 h urinary 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (u5-HIAA), and adequate relief of carcinoid gastrointestinal symptoms (using a weekly questionnaire). Twenty-three patients were treated: 18 received telotristat etiprate and five received placebo. Adverse events were generally mild. Among evaluable telotristat etiprate-treated patients, 5/18 (28%) experienced a ≥30% reduction in BM frequency for ≥2 weeks, 9/16 (56%) experienced biochemical response (≥50% reduction or normalization in 24-h u5-HIAA) at week 2 or 4, and 10/18 (56%) reported adequate relief during at least 1 of the first 4 weeks of treatment. Similar activity was not observed in placebo-treated patients. Telotristat etiprate was well tolerated. Our observations suggest that telotristat etiprate has activity in controlling diarrhea associated with carcinoid syndrome. Further studies confirming these findings are warranted.

Restricted access

Matthew H Kulke, Fang-Shu Ou, Donna Niedzwiecki, Lucas Huebner, Pamela Kunz, Hagen F Kennecke, Edward M Wolin, Jennifer A Chan, Eileen M O’Reilly, Jeffrey A Meyerhardt, and Alan Venook

Treatment with the MTOR inhibitor everolimus improves progression-free survival (PFS) in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs), but it is not known if the addition of a VEGF pathway inhibitor to an MTOR inhibitor enhances antitumor activity. We performed a randomized phase II study evaluating everolimus with or without bevacizumab in patients with advanced pNETs. One hundred and fifty patients were randomized to receive everolimus 10 mg daily with or without bevacizumab 10 mg/kg i.v. every 2 weeks. Patients also received standard dose of octreotide in both arms. The primary endpoint was PFS, based on local investigator review. Treatment with the combination of everolimus and bevacizumab resulted in improved progression-free survival compared to everolimus (16.7 months compared to 14.0 months; one-sided stratified log-rank P  = 0.1028; hazard ratio (HR) 0.80 (95% CI 0.56–1.13)), meeting the predefined primary endpoint. Confirmed tumor responses were observed in 31% (95% CI 20%, 41%) of patients receiving combination therapy, as compared to only 12% (95% CI 5%, 19%) of patients receiving treatment with everolimus (P = 0.0053). Median overall survival duration was similar in the everolimus and combination arm (42.5 and 42.1 months, respectively). Treatment-related toxicities were more common in the combination arm. In summary, treatment with everolimus and bevacizumab led to superior PFS and higher response rates compared to everolimus in patients with advanced pNETs. Although the higher rate of treatment-related adverse events may limit the use of this combination, our results support the continued evaluation of VEGF pathway inhibitors in pNETs.

Open access

Marianne Pavel, David J Gross, Marta Benavent, Petros Perros, Raj Srirajaskanthan, Richard R P Warner, Matthew H Kulke, Lowell B Anthony, Pamela L Kunz, Dieter Hörsch, Martin O Weickert, Pablo Lapuerta, Wenjun Jiang, Kenneth Kassler-Taub, Suman Wason, Rosanna Fleming, Douglas Fleming, and Rocio Garcia-Carbonero

Telotristat ethyl, a tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor, was efficacious and well tolerated in the phase 3 TELESTAR study in patients with carcinoid syndrome (CS) experiencing ≥4 bowel movements per day (BMs/day) while on somatostatin analogs (SSAs). TELECAST, a phase 3 companion study, assessed the safety and efficacy of telotristat ethyl in patients with CS (diarrhea, flushing, abdominal pain, nausea or elevated urinary 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (u5-HIAA)) with <4 BMs/day on SSAs (or ≥1 symptom or ≥4 BMs/day if not on SSAs) during a 12-week double-blind treatment period followed by a 36-week open-label extension (OLE). The primary safety and efficacy endpoints were incidence of treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) and percent change from baseline in 24-h u5-HIAA at week 12. Patients (N = 76) were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive placebo or telotristat ethyl 250 mg or 500 mg 3 times per day (tid); 67 continued receiving telotristat ethyl 500 mg tid during the OLE. Through week 12, TEAEs were generally mild to moderate in severity; 5 (placebo), 1 (telotristat ethyl 250 mg) and 3 (telotristat ethyl 500 mg) patients experienced serious events, and the rate of TEAEs in the OLE was comparable. At week 12, significant reductions in u5-HIAA from baseline were observed, with Hodges–Lehmann estimators of median treatment differences from placebo of −54.0% (95% confidence limits, −85.0%, −25.1%, P < 0.001) and −89.7% (95% confidence limits, −113.1%, −63.9%, P < 0.001) for telotristat ethyl 250 mg and 500 mg. These results support the safety and efficacy of telotristat ethyl when added to SSAs in patients with CS diarrhea (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: Nbib2063659).

Free access

Kyle M Walsh, Murim Choi, Kjell Oberg, Matthew H Kulke, James C Yao, Chengqing Wu, Magdalena Jurkiewicz, Ling-I Hsu, Susanne M Hooshmand, Manal Hassan, Eva T Janson, Janet L Cunningham, Evan Vosburgh, Richard S Sackler, Richard P Lifton, Andrew T DeWan, and Josephine Hoh

Genetic studies of midgut carcinoid cancer have exclusively focused on genomic changes of the tumor cells. We investigated the role of constitutional genetic polymorphisms in predisposing individuals to ileal carcinoids. In all, 239 cases and 110 controls were collected from three institutions: the Uppsala University Hospital; the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and were genotyped using microarrays assaying >300 000 single nucleotide polymorphisms. Association with rs2208059 in KIF16B approached statistical significance (Mantel-Haenszel odds ratio=2.42, P=4.16×10−7) at a Bonferroni-corrected level (<1.62×10−7). Using two computational algorithms, four copy-number variants (CNVs) were identified in multiple cases that were absent in study controls and markedly less frequent in ∼1500 population-based controls. Of these four constitutional CNVs identified in blood-derived DNA, a 40 kb heterozygous deletion in Chr18q22.1 corresponded with a region frequently showing loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in ileal carcinoid tumor cells based on our meta-analysis of previously published cytogenetic studies (69.7% LOH, 95% confidence interval=60.0–77.9%). We analyzed the constitutional 40 kb deletion on chr18 in our study samples with a real-time quantitative PCR assay; 14/226 cases (6.19%) and 2/97 controls (2.06%) carried the CNV, although the exact boundaries of each deletion have not been determined. Given the small sample size, our findings warrant an independent cohort for a replication study. Owing to the rarity of this disease, we believe these results will provide a valuable resource for future work on this serious condition by allowing others to make efficient use of their samples in targeted studies.