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Anna Angelousi, Georgios K Dimitriadis, Georgios Zografos, Svenja Nölting, Gregory Kaltsas, and Ashley Grossman

Tumourigenesis is a relatively common event in endocrine tissues. Currently, specific guidelines have been developed for common malignant endocrine tumours, which also incorporate advances in molecular targeted therapies (MTT), as in thyroid cancer and in gastrointestinal neuroendocrine malignancies. However, there is little information regarding the role and efficacy of MTT in the relatively rare malignant endocrine tumours mainly involving the adrenal medulla, adrenal cortex, pituitary, and parathyroid glands. Due to the rarity of these tumours and the lack of prospective studies, current guidelines are mostly based on retrospective data derived from surgical, locoregional and ablative therapies, and studies with systemic chemotherapy. In addition, in many of these malignancies the prognosis remains poor with individual patients responding differently to currently available treatments, necessitating the development of new personalised therapeutic strategies. Recently, major advances in the molecular understanding of endocrine tumours based on genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptome analysis have emerged, resulting in new insights into their pathogenesis and molecular pathology. This in turn has led to the use of novel MTTs in increasing numbers of patients. In this review, we aim to present currently existing and evolving data using MTT in the treatment of adrenal, pituitary and malignant parathyroid tumours, and explore the current utility and effectiveness of such therapies and their future evolution.

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Elke Tatjana Aristizabal Prada, Gerald Spöttl, Julian Maurer, Michael Lauseker, Eva Jolanthe Koziolek, Jörg Schrader, Ashley Grossman, Karel Pacak, Felix Beuschlein, Christoph Joseph Auernhammer, and Svenja Nölting

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (panNETs) are often inoperable at diagnosis. The mTORC1 inhibitor everolimus has been approved for the treatment of advanced NETs. However, the regular development of resistance to everolimus limits its clinical efficacy. We established two independent everolimus-resistant panNET (BON1) cell lines (BON1 RR1, BON1 RR2) to find potential mechanisms of resistance. After 24 weeks of permanent exposure to 10 nM everolimus, BON1 RR1 and BON1 RR2 showed stable resistance with cellular survival rates of 96.70% (IC50 = 5200 nM) and 92.30% (IC50 = 2500 nM), respectively. The control cell line showed sensitivity to 10 nM everolimus with cellular survival declining to 54.70% (IC50 = 34 nM). Both resistant cell lines did not regain sensitivity over time and showed persistent stable resistance after a drug holiday of 13 weeks. The mechanisms of resistance in our cell line model included morphological adaptations, G1 cell cycle arrest associated with reduced CDK1(cdc2) expression and decreased autophagy. Cellular migration potential was increased and indirectly linked to c-Met activation. GSK3 was over-activated in association with reduced baseline IRS-1 protein levels. Specific GSK3 inhibition strongly decreased BON1 RR1/RR2 cell survival. The combination of everolimus with the PI3Kα inhibitor BYL719 re-established everolimus sensitivity through GSK3 inhibition and restoration of autophagy. We suggest that GSK3 over-activation combined with decreased baseline IRS-1 protein levels and decreased autophagy may be a crucial feature of everolimus resistance, and hence, a possible therapeutic target.

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Elke Tatjana Aristizabal Prada, Vera Heinzle, Thomas Knösel, Svenja Nölting, Gerald Spöttl, Julian Maurer, Christine Spitzweg, Martin Angele, Nina Schmidt, Felix Beuschlein, Günter K Stalla, Rainer Blaser, Klaus A Kuhn, and Christoph J Auernhammer

Tropomyosin receptor kinase (Trk) inhibitors are investigated as a novel targeted therapy in various cancers. We investigated the in vitro effects of the pan-Trk inhibitor GNF-5837 in human neuroendocrine tumor (NET) cells. The human neuroendocrine pancreatic BON1, bronchopulmonary NCI-H727 and ileal GOT1 cell lines were treated with GNF-5837 alone and in combination with everolimus. Cell viability decreased in a time- and dose-dependent manner in GOT1 cells in response to GNF-5837 treatment, while treatment in BON1 and NCI-H727 cells showed no effect on cellular viability. Trk receptor expression determined GNF-5837 sensitivity. GNF-5837 caused downregulation of PI3K-Akt-mTOR signaling, Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling, the cell cycle and increased apoptotic cell death. The combinational treatment of GNF-5837 with everolimus showed a significant enhancement in inhibition of cell viability vs single substance treatments, due to a cooperative PI3K-Akt-mTOR and Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway downregulation, as well as an enhanced cell cycle component downregulation. Immunohistochemical staining for Trk receptors were performed using a tissue microarray containing 107 tumor samples of gastroenteropancreatic NETs. Immunohistochemical staining with TrkA receptor and pan-Trk receptor antibodies revealed a positive staining in pancreatic NETs in 24.2% (8/33) and 33.3% (11/33), respectively. We demonstrated that the pan-Trk inhibitor GNF-5837 has promising anti-tumoral properties in human NET cell lines expressing the TrkA receptor. Immunohistochemical or molecular screening for Trk expression particularly in pancreatic NETs might serve as predictive marker for molecular targeted therapy with Trk inhibitors.

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Nicole Bechmann, Mats Leif Moskopp, Martin Ullrich, Bruna Calsina, Pål William Wallace, Susan Richter, Markus Friedemann, Katharina Langton, Stephanie M J Fliedner, Henri J L M Timmers, Svenja Nölting, Felix Beuschlein, Martin Fassnacht, Aleksander Prejbisz, Karel Pacak, Hans K Ghayee, Stefan R Bornstein, Peter Dieterich, Jens Pietzsch, Ben Wielockx, Mercedes Robledo, Nan Qin, and Graeme Eisenhofer

Mutations that drive the stabilization of hypoxia inducible factor 2α (HIF2α) and downstream pseudohypoxic signaling are known to predispose to the development of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs). However, any role of HIF2α in predisposition to metastatic disease remains unclear. To assess such a role we combined gene-manipulations in pheochromocytoma cell lines with retrospective analyses of patient data and gene expression profiling in tumor specimens. Among 425 patients with PPGLs identified with mutations in tumor-susceptibility genes, those with tumors due to activation of pseudohypoxic pathways had a higher frequency of metastatic disease than those with tumors due to activation of kinase-signaling pathways, even without inclusion of patients with mutations in SDHB (18.6% vs 4.3% in, P < 0.0001). Three out of nine (33%) patients with gain-of-function mutations in HIF2α had metastatic disease. In cell line studies, elevated expression of HIF2α enhanced cell proliferation and led to increased migration and invasion capacity. Moreover, HIF2α expression in HIF2α-deficient cells resulted in increased cell motility, diffuse cluster formation and emergence of pseudopodia indicating changes in cell adhesion and cytoskeletal remodeling. In a mouse liver metastasis model, Hif2a enhanced the metastatic load. Transcriptomics data revealed alterations in focal adhesion and extracellular matrix–receptor interactions in HIF2α-mutated PPGLs. Our translational findings demonstrate that HIF2α supports pro-metastatic behavior in PPGLs, though other factors remain critical for subsequent transition to metastasis. We identified LAMB1 and COL4A2 as new potential therapeutic targets for HIF2α-driven PPGLs. Identified HIF2α downstream targets might open a new therapeutic window for aggressive HIF2α-expressing tumors.