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Elizabeth Grubbs, Daniel Halperin, Steven G Waguespack and Robert F Gagel

The multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) workshops had their beginnings at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario in June 1984. This initial meeting brought clinicians and scientists together to focus on mapping the gene for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). These efforts culminated in the identification of the RET protooncogene as the causative gene a decade later. Over the next 35 years there were a total of 16 international workshops focused on the several MEN syndromes. Importantly, these workshops were instrumental in efforts to define the molecular basis for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), MEN2, von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL), Carney Complex, hereditary pheochromocytoma and hyperparathyroidism. In this same spirit some 150 scientists and clinicians met at MD Anderson Cancer Center, 27–29 March 2019, for the 16th International Workshop on Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN2019). Appropriate to its location in a cancer centre, the workshop focused on important issues in the causation and treatment of malignant aspects of the MEN syndromes: medullary thyroid carcinoma, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours, malignant pheochromocytoma and parathyroid carcinoma. Workshops at the meeting focused on a better understanding of how the identified molecular defects in these genetic syndromes lead to transformation, how to apply targeted kinase inhibitors and immunotherapy to treat these tumours and important clinical management issues. This issue of Endocrine-Related Cancer describes these discussions and recommendations.

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Elizabeth G Grubbs, Ronald M Lechan, Beth Edeiken-Monroe, Gilbert J Cote, Chardria Trotter, Arthur S Tischler and Robert F Gagel

Forty years ago, physicians caring for the J-kindred, a 100+ member family with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A), hypothesized that early thyroidectomy based on measurement of the biomarker calcitonin could cure patients at risk for development of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). We re-evaluated 22 family members with proven RET proto-oncogene mutations (C634G) who underwent thyroidectomy and central lymphadenectomy between 1972 and 1994 based on stimulated calcitonin abnormalities. Current disease status was evaluated by serum calcitonin measurement and neck ultrasound in 18 of the 22 prospectively screened patients. The median age of the cohort at thyroidectomy was 16.5 years (range 9–24). The median duration of follow-up at the time of examination was 40 years (range 21–43) with a median current age of 52 years (range 34–65). Fifteen of the 18 patients had no detectable serum calcitonin (<2 pg/mL). Three had detectable serum calcitonin measurements, inappropriately elevated following total thyroidectomy. None of the 16 patients imaged had an abnormal ultrasound. Survival analysis shows no MTC-related deaths in the prospectively screened patients, whereas there were many in prior generations. Early thyroidectomy based on biomarker testing has rendered 15 of 18 MEN2A patients (83%) calcitonin-free with a median follow-up period of 40 years. There have been no deaths in the prospectively screened and thyroidectomized group. We conclude that early thyroidectomy and central lymph node dissection is an effective prophylactic treatment for hereditary MTC.

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Mimi I Hu, Rossella Elisei, Marek Dedecjus, Aron Popovtzer, Maralyn Druce, Ellen Kapiteijn, Furio Pacini, Laura Locati, Jolanta Krajewska, Richard Weiss and Robert F Gagel

Vandetanib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor approved for treatment of advanced symptomatic or progressive medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). The current study (Nbib1496313) evaluated the benefit–risk of two starting doses of vandetanib in patients with symptomatic or progressive MTC. Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive vandetanib 150 or 300 mg daily and followed for a maximum of 14 months (Part A), with the option to then enter an open-label phase (Part B) investigating vandetanib 100, 150, 200 and 300 mg daily doses. Efficacy was assessed in Part A, and safety and tolerability during Parts A and B up to 2 years post randomization. Eighty-one patients were randomized in Part A and 61 patients entered Part B, of whom 37 (60.7%) received 2 years of treatment. Overall, 25% of patients experienced an objective response (OR) at 14 months (OR rate, 0.29 (95% CI, 0.176–0.445) for 300 mg, and 0.20 (95% CI, 0.105–0.348) for 150 mg; one-sided P value approximately 0.43). The most common adverse events (AEs) included diarrhea, hypocalcemia, asthenia, QTc prolongation, hypokalemia and keratopathy, all at generally higher incidence with 300 vs 150 mg (Part A). Part B safety and tolerability was consistent with Part A. OR was observed with both vandetanib doses; the 300 mg dose showed a more favorable trend vs 150 mg as initial dose. Thus, for most patients, 300 mg vandetanib is the most appropriate starting dose; dose reductions to manage AEs and lower initial doses for patients with particular comorbidities can be considered.

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Ramona Dadu, Rozita Bagheri-Yarmand, Matthew D Ringel, Elizabeth G Grubbs, Mark Zafereo, Gilbert Cote, Robert F Gagel, Bruce G Robinson, Kenna R Shaw and Mimi I Hu

The 16th International Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Workshop (MEN2019) held in Houston, TX, USA, focused on emerging topics in the pathogenesis and therapy of malignant endocrine tumors associated with MEN syndromes. With MEN-2 syndromes, the most common malignancy is medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). In the spirit of the original MEN meeting workshop model, the conference included didactic lectures and interactive working groups of clinicians and researchers focused on the state of science in MTC and ongoing challenges or unmet needs in the understanding of MTC and to develop strategies to address these issues.

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Libero Santarpia, George A Calin, Liana Adam, Lei Ye, Alfredo Fusco, Serena Giunti, Christina Thaller, Laura Paladini, Xinna Zhang, Camilo Jimenez, Francesco Trimarchi, Adel K El-Naggar and Robert F Gagel

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small, non-coding RNAs that control gene expression by targeting mRNA and triggering either translational repression or RNA degradation. The objective of our study was to evaluate the involvement of miRNAs in human medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and to identify the markers of metastatic cells and aggressive tumour behaviour. Using matched primary and metastatic tumour samples, we identified a subset of miRNAs aberrantly regulated in metastatic MTC. Deregulated miRNAs were confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and validated by in situ hybridisation on a large independent set of primary and metastatic MTC samples. Our results uncovered ten miRNAs that were significantly expressed and deregulated in metastatic tumours: miR-10a, miR-200b/-200c, miR-7 and miR-29c were down-regulated and miR-130a, miR-138, miR-193a-3p, miR-373 and miR-498 were up-regulated. Bioinformatic approaches revealed potential miRNA targets and signals involved in metastatic MTC pathways. Migration, proliferation and invasion assays were performed in cell lines treated with miR-200 antagomirs to ascertain a direct role for this miRNA in MTC tumourigenesis. We show that the members of miR-200 family regulate the expression of E-cadherin by directly targeting ZEB1 and ZEB2 mRNA and through the enhanced expression of tumour growth factor β (TGFβ)-2 and TGFβ-1. Overall, the treated cells shifted to a mesenchymal phenotype, thereby acquiring an aggressive phenotype with increased motility and invasion. Our data identify a robust miRNA signature associated with metastatic MTC and distinct biological processes, e.g., TGFβ signalling pathway, providing new potential insights into the mechanisms of MTC metastasis.