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A A Pannett and R V Thakker

Combined clinical and laboratory investigations of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) have resulted in an increased understanding of this disorder which may be inherited as an autosomal dominant condition. Defining the features of each disease manifestation in MEN1 has improved patient management and treatment, and has also facilitated a screening protocol to be instituted. The application of the techniques of molecular biology has enabled the identification of the gene causing MEN1 and the detection of mutations in patients. The function of the protein encoded by the MEN1 gene has been shown to be in the regulation of JunD-mediated transcription but much still remains to be elucidated. However, these recent advances provide for the identification of mutant MEN1 gene carriers who are at a high risk of developing this disorder and thus require regular and biochemical screening to detect the development of endocrine tumours.

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P D Leotlela, A Jauch, H Holtgreve-Grez and R V Thakker

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) originate in tissues that contain cells derived from the embryonic neural crest, neuroectoderm and endoderm. Thus, NETs occur at many sites in the body, although the majority occur within the gastro-entero-pancreatic axis and can be subdivided into those of foregut, midgut and hindgut origin. Amongst these, only those of midgut origin are generally argentaffin positive and secrete serotonin, and hence only these should be referred to as carcinoid tumours. NETs may occur as part of complex familial endocrine cancer syndromes, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), although the majority occur as non-familial (i.e. sporadic) isolated tumours. Molecular genetic studies have revealed that the development of NETs may involve different genes, each of which may be associated with several different abnormalities that include point mutations, gene deletions, DNA methylation, chromosomal losses and chromosomal gains. Indeed, the foregut, midgut and hindgut NETs develop via different molecular pathways. For example, foregut NETs have frequent deletions and mutations of the MEN1 gene, whereas midgut NETs have losses of chromosome 18, 11q and 16q and hindgut NETs express transforming growth factor-alpha and the epidermal growth factor receptor. Furthermore, in lung NETs, a loss of chromosome 3p is the most frequent change and p53 mutations and chromosomal loss of 5q21 are associated with more aggressive tumours and poor survival. In addition, methylation frequencies of retinoic acid receptor-beta, E-cadherin and RAS-associated domain family genes increase with the severity of lung NETs. Thus the development and progression of NETs is associated with specific genetic abnormalities that indicate the likely involvement of different molecular pathways.

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Brian Harding, Manuel C Lemos, Anita A C Reed, Gerard V Walls, Jeshmi Jeyabalan, Michael R Bowl, Hilda Tateossian, Nicky Sullivan, Tertius Hough, William D Fraser, Olaf Ansorge, Michael T Cheeseman and Rajesh V Thakker

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized in man by parathyroid, pancreatic, pituitary and adrenal tumours. The MEN1 gene encodes a 610-amino acid protein (menin) which is a tumour suppressor. To investigate the in vivo role of menin, we developed a mouse model, by deleting Men1 exons 1 and 2 and investigated this for MEN1-associated tumours and serum abnormalities. Men1 +/− mice were viable and fertile, and 220 Men1 +/− and 94 Men1 +/+ mice were studied between the ages of 3 and 21 months. Survival in Men1 +/− mice was significantly lower than in Men1 +/+ mice (<68% vs >85%, P<0.01). Men1 +/− mice developed, by 9 months of age, parathyroid hyperplasia, pancreatic tumours which were mostly insulinomas, by 12 months of age, pituitary tumours which were mostly prolactinomas, and by 15 months parathyroid adenomas and adrenal cortical tumours. Loss of heterozygosity and menin expression was demonstrated in the tumours, consistent with a tumour suppressor role for the Men1 gene. Men1 +/− mice with parathyroid neoplasms were hypercalcaemic and hypophosphataemic, with inappropriately normal serum parathyroid hormone concentrations. Pancreatic and pituitary tumours expressed chromogranin A (CgA), somatostatin receptor type 2 and vascular endothelial growth factor-A. Serum CgA concentrations in Men1 +/− mice were not elevated. Adrenocortical tumours, which immunostained for 3-β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, developed in seven Men1 +/− mice, but resulted in hypercorticosteronaemia in one out of the four mice that were investigated. Thus, these Men1 +/− mice are representative of MEN1 in man, and will help in investigating molecular mechanisms and treatments for endocrine tumours.

Open access

K E Lines, P Filippakopoulos, M Stevenson, S Müller, H E Lockstone, B Wright, S Knapp, D Buck, C Bountra and R V Thakker

Medical treatments for corticotrophinomas are limited, and we therefore investigated the effects of epigenetic modulators, a new class of anti-tumour drugs, on the murine adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting corticotrophinoma cell line AtT20. We found that AtT20 cells express members of the bromo and extra-terminal (BET) protein family, which bind acetylated histones, and therefore, studied the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of two BET inhibitors, referred to as (+)-JQ1 (JQ1) and PFI-1, using CellTiter Blue and Caspase Glo assays, respectively. JQ1 and PFI-1 significantly decreased proliferation by 95% (P < 0.0005) and 43% (P < 0.0005), respectively, but only JQ1 significantly increased apoptosis by >50-fold (P < 0.0005), when compared to untreated control cells. The anti-proliferative effects of JQ1 and PFI-1 remained for 96 h after removal of the respective compound. JQ1, but not PFI-1, affected the cell cycle, as assessed by propidium iodide staining and flow cytometry, and resulted in a higher number of AtT20 cells in the sub G1 phase. RNA-sequence analysis, which was confirmed by qRT-PCR and Western blot analyses, revealed that JQ1 treatment significantly altered expression of genes involved in apoptosis, such as NFκB, and the somatostatin receptor 2 (SSTR2) anti-proliferative signalling pathway, including SSTR2. JQ1 treatment also significantly reduced transcription and protein expression of the ACTH precursor pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and ACTH secretion by AtT20 cells. Thus, JQ1 treatment has anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects on AtT20 cells and reduces ACTH secretion, thereby indicating that BET inhibition may provide a novel approach for treatment of corticotrophinomas.

Free access

C R C Pieterman, S M Sadowski, J E Maxwell, M H G Katz, K E Lines, C M Heaphy, A Tirosh, J E Blau, N D Perrier, M A Lewis, J P Metzcar, D M Halperin, R V Thakker and G D Valk

The PanNET Working Group of the 16th International Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Workshop (MEN2019) convened in Houston, TX, USA, 27–29 March 2019 to discuss key unmet clinical needs related to PanNET in the context of MEN1, with a special focus on non-functioning (nf)-PanNETs. The participants represented a broad range of medical scientists as well as representatives from patient organizations, pharmaceutical industry and research societies. In a case-based approach, participants addressed early detection, surveillance, prognostic factors and management of localized and advanced disease. For each topic, after a review of current evidence, key unmet clinical needs and future research directives to make meaningful progress for MEN1 patients with nf-PanNETs were identified. International multi-institutional collaboration is needed for adequately sized studies and validation of findings in independent datasets. Collaboration between basic, translational and clinical scientists is paramount to establishing a translational science approach. In addition, bringing clinicians, scientists and patients together improves the prioritization of research goals, assures a patient-centered approach and maximizes patient involvement. It was concluded that collaboration, research infrastructure, methodologic and reporting rigor are essential to any translational science effort. The highest priority for nf-PanNETs in MEN1 syndrome are (1) the development of a data and biospecimen collection architecture that is uniform across all MEN1 centers, (2) unified strategies for diagnosis and follow-up of incident and prevalent nf-PanNETs, (3) non-invasive detection of individual nf-PanNETs that have an increased risk of metastasis, (4) chemoprevention clinical trials driven by basic research studies and (5) therapeutic targets for advanced disease based on biologically plausible mechanisms.