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Katarina Edfeldt, Peyman Björklund, Göran Åkerström, Gunnar Westin, Per Hellman and Peter Stålberg

The genetic events leading the progression of midgut carcinoid tumors are largely unknown. The disease course varies from patient to patient, and there is a lack of reliable prognostic markers. In order to identify genes involved in tumor progression, gene expression profiling was performed on tumor specimens. Samples comprised 18 primary tumors, 17 lymph node (LN) metastases, and seven liver metastases from a total of 19 patients. Patients were grouped according to clinical data and histopathology into indolent or progressive course. RNA was subjected to a spotted oligo microarray and B-statistics were performed. Differentially expressed genes were verified using quantitative real-time PCR. Self-organizing maps demonstrated three clusters: 11 primary tumors separated in one cluster, five LN metastases in another cluster, whereas all seven liver metastases, seven primary, and 12 LN metastases formed a third cluster. There was no correlation between indolent and progressive behavior. The primary tumors with Ki67 >5%, with low frequency of the carcinoid syndrome, and a tendency toward shorter survival grouped together. Primary tumors differed in expression profile from their associated LN metastases; thus, there is evidence for genetic changes from primary tumors to metastases. ACTG2, GREM2, REG3A, TUSC2, RUNX1, TPH1, TGFBR2, and CDH6 were differentially expressed between clusters and subgroups of tumors. The expression profile that assembles tumors as being genetically similar on the RNA expression level may not be concordant with the clinical disease course. This study reveals differences in gene expression profiles and novel genes that may be of importance in midgut carcinoid tumor progression.

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Jessica Svedlund, Elham Barazeghi, Peter Stålberg, Per Hellman, Göran Åkerström, Peyman Björklund and Gunnar Westin

Primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) resulting from parathyroid tumors is a common endocrine disorder with incompletely understood etiology. In renal failure, secondary hyperparathyroidism (sHPT) occurs with multiple tumor development as a result of calcium and vitamin D regulatory disturbance. The aim of this study was to investigate a potential role of the histone 3 lysine 27 methyltransferase EZH2 in parathyroid tumorigenesis. Parathyroid tumors from patients with pHPT included adenomas and carcinomas. Hyperplastic parathyroid glands from patients with HPT secondary to uremia and normal parathyroid tissue specimens were included in this study. Quantitative RT-PCR, western blotting, bisulfite pyrosequencing, colony formation assay, and RNA interference were used. EZH2 was overexpressed in a subset of the benign and in all malignant parathyroid tumors as determined by quantitative RT-PCR and western blotting analyses. Overexpression was explained by EZH2 gene amplification in a large fraction of tumors. EZH2 depletion by RNA interference inhibited sHPT-1 parathyroid cell line proliferation as determined by tritium–thymidine incorporation and colony formation assays. EZH2 depletion also interfered with the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway by increased expression of growth-suppressive AXIN2, a negative regulator of β-catenin stability. Indeed, EZH2 contributed to the total level of aberrantly accumulated transcriptionally active (nonphosphoylated) β-catenin in the parathyroid tumor cells. To our knowledge EZH2 gene amplification presents the first genetic aberration common to parathyroid adenomas, secondary hyperplastic parathyroid glands, and parathyroid carcinomas. This supports the possibility of a common pathway in parathyroid tumor development.

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Kosmas Daskalakis, Olov Norlén, Andreas Karakatsanis, Per Hellman, Rolf Larsson, Peter Nygren and Peter Stålberg

Small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors (SI-NETs) are generally considered resistant to systemic treatment. To date, predictive markers for drug activity are lacking. Tumor samples from 27 patients with SI-NETs were analyzed ex vivo for sensitivity to a panel of cytotoxic drugs and targeted agents using a short-term total cell kill assay. Samples of renal cancer, colorectal cancer (CRC), ovarian cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) were included for comparison. For the SI-NET subset, drug sensitivity was analyzed in relation to clinicopathological variables and pre-treatment biomarkers. For cytotoxic drugs, SI-NETs demonstrated similar or higher sensitivity to 5-FU, platinum, gemcitabine and doxorubicin compared with CRC. For several of the targeted kinase inhibitors, SI-NET was among the most sensitive solid tumor types. CLL and ovarian cancer were generally the most sensitive tumor types to both cytotoxic drugs and protein kinase inhibitors. SI-NET was more sensitive to the mTOR inhibitor sirolimus than the other solid tumor types tested. Individual SI-NET samples demonstrated great variability in ex vivo sensitivity for most drugs. Cross-resistance between different drugs also varied considerably, being higher among protein kinase inhibitors. Age, stage, grade, peritoneal carcinomatosis and extra-abdominal metastases as well as serum chromogranin A and urine 5-HIAA concentrations at diagnosis did not correlate to drug sensitivity ex vivo. SI-NETs exhibit intermediate sensitivity ex vivo to cytotoxic and targeted drugs. Clinicopathological factors and currently used biomarkers are not clearly associated to ex vivo sensitivity, challenging these criteria for treatment decisions in SI-NET. The great variability in drug sensitivity calls for individualized selection of therapy.

Free access

Katarina Edfeldt, Tanveer Ahmad, Göran Åkerström, Eva Tiensuu Janson, Per Hellman, Peter Stålberg, Peyman Björklund and Gunnar Westin

Small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors (SI-NETs), formerly known as midgut carcinoids, are rare and slow-growing neoplasms. Frequent loss of one copy of chromosome 18 in primary tumors and metastases has been observed. The aim of the study was to investigate a possible role of TCEB3C (Elongin A3), currently the only imprinted gene on chromosome 18, as a tumor suppressor gene in SI-NETs, and whether its expression is epigenetically regulated. Primary tumors, metastases, the human SI-NET cell line CNDT2.5, and two other cell lines were included. Immunohistochemistry, gene copy number determination by PCR, colony formation assay, western blotting, real-time quantitative RT-PCR, RNA interference, and quantitative CpG methylation analysis by pyrosequencing were performed. A large majority of tumors (33/43) showed very low to undetectable Elongin A3 expression and as expected 89% (40/45) displayed one gene copy of TCEB3C. The DNA hypomethylating agent 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine induced TCEB3C expression in CNDT2.5 cells, in primary SI-NET cells prepared directly after surgery, but not in two other cell lines. Also siRNA to DNMT1 and treatment with the general histone methyltransferase inhibitor 3-deazaneplanocin A induced TCEB3C expression in a cell type-specific way. CpG methylation at the TCEB3C promoter was observed in all analyzed tissues and thus not related to expression. Overexpression of TCEB3C resulted in a 50% decrease in clonogenic survival of CNDT2.5 cells, but not of control cells. The results support a putative role of TCEB3C as a tumor suppressor gene in SI-NETs. Epigenetic repression of TCEB3C seems to be tumor cell type-specific and involves both DNA and histone methylation.

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Alberto Delgado Verdugo, Joakim Crona, Lee Starker, Peter Stålberg, Göran Åkerström, Gunnar Westin, Per Hellman and Peyman Björklund

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Elham Barazeghi, Anthony J Gill, Stan Sidhu, Olov Norlén, Roberto Dina, F Fausto Palazzo, Per Hellman, Peter Stålberg and Gunnar Westin

Primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) is rarely caused by parathyroid carcinoma (PC, <1–5% of pHPT cases). The TET proteins oxidize the epigenetic mark 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) and inactivation by mutation or epigenetic deregulation of TET1 and TET2 play important roles in various cancers. Recently, we found that 5hmC was severely reduced in all of the analyzed PCs and with deranged expression of TET1 for the majority of PCs. Here, we have examined the expression of the TET2 protein in 15 5hmC-negative PCs from patients who had local invasion or metastases. Cell growth and cell migratory roles for TET2 as well as epigenetic deregulated expression were addressed. Immunohistochemistry revealed very low/undetectable expression of TET2 in all PCs and verified for two PCs that were available for western blotting analysis. Knockdown of TET2 in the parathyroid cell line sHPT-1 resulted in increased cell growth and increased cell migration. DNA sequencing of TET2 in PCs revealed two common variants and no obvious inactivating mutations. Quantitative bisulfite pyrosequencing analysis of the TET2 promoter CpG island revealed higher CpG methylation level in the PCs compared to that in normal tissues and treatment of a PC primary cell culture with the DNA methylation inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine caused increased expression of the methylated TET2 gene. Hence, the data suggest that deregulated expression of TET2 by DNA hypermethylation may contribute to the aberrantly low level of 5hmC in PCs and further that TET2 plays a cell growth and cell migratory regulatory role and may constitute a parathyroid tumor suppressor gene.

Open access

Jan P Dumanski, Chiara Rasi, Peyman Björklund, Hanna Davies, Abir S Ali, Malin Grönberg, Staffan Welin, Halfdan Sorbye, Henning Grønbæk, Janet L Cunningham, Lars A Forsberg, Lars Lind, Erik Ingelsson, Peter Stålberg, Per Hellman and Eva Tiensuu Janson

The genetics behind predisposition to small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors (SI-NETs) is largely unknown, but there is growing awareness of a familial form of the disease. We aimed to identify germline mutations involved in the carcinogenesis of SI-NETs. The strategy included next-generation sequencing of exome- and/or whole-genome of blood DNA, and in selected cases, tumor DNA, from 24 patients from 15 families with the history of SI-NETs. We identified seven candidate mutations in six genes that were further studied using 215 sporadic SI-NET patients. The result was compared with the frequency of the candidate mutations in three control cohorts with a total of 35,688 subjects. A heterozygous variant causing an amino acid substitution p.(Gly396Asp) in the MutY DNA glycosylase gene (MUTYH) was significantly enriched in SI-NET patients (minor allele frequencies 0.013 and 0.003 for patients and controls respectively) and resulted in odds ratio of 5.09 (95% confidence interval 1.56–14.74; P value = 0.0038). We also found a statistically significant difference in age at diagnosis between familial and sporadic SI-NETs. MUTYH is involved in the protection of DNA from mutations caused by oxidative stress. The inactivation of this gene leads to specific increase of G:C- > T:A transversions in DNA sequence and has been shown to cause various cancers in humans and experimental animals. Our results suggest that p.(Gly396Asp) in MUTYH, and potentially other mutations in additional members of the same DNA excision-repair pathway (such as the OGG1 gene) might be involved in driving the tumorigenesis leading to familial and sporadic SI-NETs.

Free access

Tobias Åkerström, Holger Sven Willenberg, Kenko Cupisti, Julian Ip, Samuel Backman, Ana Moser, Rajani Maharjan, Bruce Robinson, K Alexander Iwen, Henning Dralle, Cristina D Volpe, Martin Bäckdahl, Johan Botling, Peter Stålberg, Gunnar Westin, Martin K Walz, Hendrik Lehnert, Stan Sidhu, Jan Zedenius, Peyman Björklund and Per Hellman

Aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) are found in 1.5–3.0% of hypertensive patients in primary care and can be cured by surgery. Elucidation of genetic events may improve our understanding of these tumors and ultimately improve patient care. Approximately 40% of APAs harbor a missense mutation in the KCNJ5 gene. More recently, somatic mutations in CACNA1D, ATP1A1 and ATP2B3, also important for membrane potential/intracellular Ca2 + regulation, were observed in APAs. In this study, we analyzed 165 APAs for mutations in selected regions of these genes. We then correlated mutational findings with clinical and molecular phenotype using transcriptome analysis, immunohistochemistry and semiquantitative PCR. Somatic mutations in CACNA1D in 3.0% (one novel mutation), ATP1A1 in 6.1% (six novel mutations) and ATP2B3 in 3.0% (two novel mutations) were detected. All observed mutations were located in previously described hotspot regions. Patients with tumors harboring mutations in CACNA1D, ATP1A1 and ATP2B3 were operated at an older age, were more often male and had tumors that were smaller than those in patients with KCNJ5 mutated tumors. Microarray transcriptome analysis segregated KCNJ5 mutated tumors from ATP1A1/ATP2B3 mutated tumors and those without mutation. We observed significant transcription upregulation of CYP11B2, as well as the previously described glomerulosa-specific gene NPNT, in ATP1A1/ATP2B3 mutated tumors compared to KCNJ5 mutated tumors. In summary, we describe novel somatic mutations in proteins regulating the membrane potential/intracellular Ca2 + levels, and also a distinct mRNA and clinical signature, dependent on genetic alteration.

Free access

Tobias Krauss, Alfonso Massimiliano Ferrara, Thera P Links, Ulrich Wellner, Irina Bancos, Andrey Kvachenyuk, Karina Villar Gómez de las Heras, Marina Y Yukina, Roman Petrov, Garrett Bullivant, Laura von Duecker, Swati Jadhav, Ursula Ploeckinger, Staffan Welin, Camilla Schalin-Jäntti, Oliver Gimm, Marija Pfeifer, Joanne Ngeow, Kornelia Hasse-Lazar, Gabriela Sansó, Xiaoping Qi, M Umit Ugurlu, Rene E Diaz, Nelson Wohllk, Mariola Peczkowska, Jens Aberle, Delmar M Lourenço Jr, Maria A A Pereira, Maria C B V Fragoso, Ana O Hoff, Madson Q Almeida, Alice H D Violante, Ana R P Quidute, Zhewei Zhang, Mònica Recasens, Luis Robles Díaz, Tada Kunavisarut, Taweesak Wannachalee, Sirinart Sirinvaravong, Eric Jonasch, Simona Grozinsky-Glasberg, Merav Fraenkel, Dmitry Beltsevich, Viacheslav I Egorov, Dirk Bausch, Matthias Schott, Nikolaus Tiling, Gianmaria Pennelli, Stefan Zschiedrich, Roland Därr, Juri Ruf, Timm Denecke, Karl-Heinrich Link, Stefania Zovato, Ernst von Dobschuetz, Svetlana Yaremchuk, Holger Amthauer, Özer Makay, Attila Patocs, Martin K Walz, Tobias B Huber, Jochen Seufert, Per Hellman, Raymond H Kim, Ekaterina Kuchinskaya, Francesca Schiavi, Angelica Malinoc, Nicole Reisch, Barbara Jarzab, Marta Barontini, Andrzej Januszewicz, Nalini Shah, William F Young Jr, Giuseppe Opocher, Charis Eng, Hartmut P H Neumann and Birke Bausch

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNETs) are rare in von Hippel–Lindau disease (VHL) but cause serious morbidity and mortality. Management guidelines for VHL-PanNETs continue to be based on limited evidence, and survival data to guide surgical management are lacking. We established the European-American-Asian-VHL-PanNET-Registry to assess data for risks for metastases, survival and long-term outcomes to provide best management recommendations. Of 2330 VHL patients, 273 had a total of 484 PanNETs. Median age at diagnosis of PanNET was 35 years (range 10–75). Fifty-five (20%) patients had metastatic PanNETs. Metastatic PanNETs were significantly larger (median size 5 vs 2 cm; P < 0.001) and tumor volume doubling time (TVDT) was faster (22 vs 126 months; P = 0.001). All metastatic tumors were ≥2.8 cm. Codons 161 and 167 were hotspots for VHL germline mutations with enhanced risk for metastatic PanNETs. Multivariate prediction modeling disclosed maximum tumor diameter and TVDT as significant predictors for metastatic disease (positive and negative predictive values of 51% and 100% for diameter cut-off ≥2.8 cm, 44% and 91% for TVDT cut-off of ≤24 months). In 117 of 273 patients, PanNETs >1.5 cm in diameter were operated. Ten-year survival was significantly longer in operated vs non-operated patients, in particular for PanNETs <2.8 cm vs ≥2.8 cm (94% vs 85% by 10 years; P = 0.020; 80% vs 50% at 10 years; P = 0.030). This study demonstrates that patients with PanNET approaching the cut-off diameter of 2.8 cm should be operated. Mutations in exon 3, especially of codons 161/167 are at enhanced risk for metastatic PanNETs. Survival is significantly longer in operated non-metastatic VHL-PanNETs.