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Free access

Diego Ferone, Federico Gatto, Marica Arvigo, Eugenia Resmini, Mara Boschetti, Claudia Teti, Daniela Esposito and Francesco Minuto

The role of somatostatin and dopamine receptors as molecular targets for the treatment of patients with pituitary adenomas is well established. Indeed, dopamine and somatostatin receptor agonists are considered milestones for the medical therapy of these tumours. However, in recent years, the knowledge of the expression of subtypes of somatostatin and dopamine receptors in pituitary adenomas, as well as of the coexpression of both types of receptors in tumour cells, has increased considerably. Moreover, recent insights suggest a functional interface of dopamine and somatostatin receptors, when coexpressed in the same cells. This interaction has been suggested to occur via dimerisation of these G-protein-coupled receptors. In addition, there was renewed interest around the concept of cell specificity in response to ligand-induced receptor activation. New experimental drugs, including novel somatostatin analogues, binding to multiple somatostatin receptor subtypes, as well as hybrid somatostatin–dopamine compounds have been generated, and recently a completely novel class of molecules has been developed. These advances have opened new perspectives for the medical treatment of patients with pituitary tumours poorly responsive to the present clinically available drugs, and perhaps also for the treatment of other categories of neuroendocrine tumours. The aim of the present review is to summarise the novel insights in somatostatin and dopamine receptor pathophysiology, and to bring these new insights into perspective for the future strategies in the medical treatment of patients with pituitary adenomas.

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W E Farrell, M F Stewart, A J L Clark, S R Crosby, J R E Davis and A White

ABSTRACT

In the normal pituitary, glucocorticoids are the principal negative regulator of the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene which gives rise to the biologically active peptides ACTH and β-endorphin. In Cushing's syndrome, ACTH-secreting pituitary tumours show a degree of glucocorticoid resistance, whilst ACTH-secreting extra-pituitary tumours have an even greater resistance to glucocorticoid excess. In an attempt to understand the mechanism of this phenomenon, we have compared the effects of glucocorticoids on POMC mRNA and peptide secretion in human and mouse corticotroph adenoma cells and in small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) cells. ACTH precursor peptides were inhibited within 24 h by 25–50 nm hydrocortisone in primary cultures from a human corticotroph adenoma. In the mouse corticotroph adenoma cell line (AtT20), inhibition of both ACTH precursors and ACTH was not observed after 24 h but, by 10 days, glucocorticoids suppressed peptide levels with a concentration causing 50% inhibition of 50 nm hydrocortisone and maximal inhibition at 500 nm hydrocortisone. In marked contrast, there was no response to 500 nm hydrocortisone in the five SCLC cell lines (COR L103, COR L42, COR L24, COR L31, DMS 79) all of which secrete ACTH precursors. However, two of the five SCLC cell lines (COR L31 and DMS 79) were responsive to 1000 nm hydrocortisone. POMC mRNA, quantitated by slot-blot analysis, gave similar results for the five SCLC cell lines, implying that the abnormality may occur at the level of gene expression. When one of the three resistant cell lines (COR L103) was incubated with 2000 nm hydrocortisone or 2000 nm dexamethasone a clear suppression of precursor peptides and POMC mRNA was observed. This suggests that the resistance to glucocorticoid inhibition is relative rather than absolute, implying that the normal mechanism is functioning but impaired. Furthermore, there is at least a 20-fold difference in the responsiveness to glucocorticoid inhibition between pituitary and extra-pituitary tumour cells in vitro, which may signify a difference in the underlying mechanism in these two cell types.

Free access

Valentina Vaira, Francesca Elli, Irene Forno, Vito Guarnieri, Chiara Verdelli, Stefano Ferrero, Alfredo Scillitani, Leonardo Vicentini, Filomena Cetani, Giovanna Mantovani, Anna Spada, Silvano Bosari and Sabrina Corbetta

A subset of over-expressed microRNAs (miRNAs) identified in parathyroid carcinomas (Ca) compared to normal glands belongs to C19MC, a cluster on chromosome 19q13.4 involved in stem cell biology and tumourigenesis. In this study, the expression of C19MC–MIR371–3 clusters and the molecular mechanisms presiding their modulation were investigated in a series of six normal parathyroids, 24 adenomas (Ad), 15 Ca and five matched metastases. The general expression levels of C19MC or MIR371–3 clusters in Ad lesions did not differ from normal glands, while they distinguished Ad from Ca at unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis (P=0.0008). MIR517C showed the most significant difference in expression between Ca and Ad (P=0.0003) and it positively correlated with serum calcium, parathormone and tumour weight. In regard to the molecular mechanism determining C19MC cluster activation, we could detect C19MC copy number (CN) gain in ten Ca (67%) extending distal to the MIR371–3 cluster in almost all samples. Conversely, only four Ad (16%) showed C19MC amplification, with one case presenting distal genomic aberration to MIR371–3. Globally, CN variations of 19q13.4 loci were significantly associated with MIR517C up-regulation (P=0.006). Opposite to normal glands where C19MC promoter was methylated, hypomethylation occurred in 15 out of 30 analysed tumours. Though the epigenetic status did not correlate with C19MC miRNA expression levels, loss of C19MC promoter methylation was significantly associated with Ca and metastatic disease (P=0.01). In conclusion, C19MC cluster aberrations are a characteristic of Ca with respect to Ad. Altogether, these evidences point towards a role for 19q13.4 miRNA clusters as oncogenes in parathyroid tumourigenesis.

Free access

Maria Rossing

The incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing worldwide and thyroid nodules are a frequent clinical finding. Diagnosing follicular cell-derived cancers is, however, challenging both histopathologically and especially cytopathologically. The advent of high-throughput molecular technologies has prompted many researchers to explore the transcriptome and, in recent years, also the miRNome in order to generate new molecular classifiers capable of classifying thyroid tumours more accurately than by conventional cytopathological and histopathological methods. This has led to a number of molecular classifiers that may differentiate malignant from benign thyroid nodules. Molecular classification models based on global RNA profiles from fine-needle aspirations are currently being evaluated; results are preliminary and lack validation in prospective clinical trials. There is no doubt that molecular classification will not only contribute to our biological insight but also improve clinical and pathological examinations, thus advancing thyroid tumour diagnosis and ultimately preventing superfluous surgery. This review evaluates the status of classification and biological insights gained from molecular profiling of follicular cell-derived thyroid cancers.

Free access

M Maggiolini, AG Recchia, A Carpino, A Vivacqua, G Fasanella, V Rago, V Pezzi, PA Briand, D Picard and S Ando

The role of oestrogens in the development of prostate cancer is poorly understood. However, a large body of evidence has suggested that oestrogenic hormones may be involved in prostatic malignancy. The localization of oestrogen receptor beta (ERbeta) in the secretory epithelium of the human prostate has raised the intriguing possibility that the action of oestrogen could be mediated, at least in part, by this receptor during the process of carcinogenesis. Hence, specific interference with oestrogen-activated and ERbeta-mediated transcriptional activity could open new issues in the endocrine manipulation of prostate tumours. In the present study, we provide new insights into the role of ERbeta in the context of an androgen-responsive prostate cancer cell line such as LNCaP, which was used as a model system together with steroid receptor negative HeLa cells. ERbeta and the mutated androgen receptor (AR) T877A did not discriminate between oestrogen- or androgen-induced transactivation, whereas ERbeta and AR transcriptional activity were inhibited only by the respective hormone antagonists ICI 182,780 and casodex. Furthermore, the nuclear localization of ERbeta evaluated by immunocytochemistry confirmed the promiscuous response to hormones in addition to the specific inhibitory action of antagonists. Interestingly, ICI 182,780 and an ERbeta antisense expression vector repressed the growth effects of both 17beta-oestradiol and 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone, suggesting that ERbeta has a key role in the proliferation induced by these steroids in LNCaP prostate cancer cells. Thus our findings implicate ERbeta as a potential target for the treatment of prostate tumours.

Free access

Federica Morani, Suratchanee Phadngam, Carlo Follo, Rossella Titone, Gianluca Aimaretti, Alessandra Galetto, Oscar Alabiso and Ciro Isidoro

Glucose represents an important source of energy for the cells. Proliferating cancer cells consume elevated quantity of glucose, which is converted into lactate regardless of the presence of oxygen. This phenomenon, known as the Warburg effect, has been proven to be useful for imaging metabolically active tumours in cancer patients by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG–PET). Glucose is internalised in the cells by glucose transporters (GLUTs) belonging to the GLUT family. GLUT1 (SLC2A1) is the most prevalent isoform in more aggressive and less differentiated thyroid cancer histotypes. In a previous work, we found that loss of expression of PTEN was associated with increased expression of GLUT1 on the plasma membrane (PM) and probability of detecting thyroid incidentalomas by FDG–PET. Herein, we investigated the molecular pathways that govern the expression of GLUT1 on the PM and the glucose uptake in WRO (expressing WT PTEN) and FTC133 (PTEN null) follicular thyroid cancer cells cultured under glucose-depleted conditions. The membrane expression of GLUT1 was enhanced in glucose-deprived cells. Through genetic manipulations of PTEN expression, we could demonstrate that the lack of this oncosuppressor has a dominant effect on the membrane expression of GLUT1 and glucose uptake. We conclude that loss of function of PTEN increases the probability of cancer detection by FDG–PET or other glucose-based imaging diagnosis.

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F McClure, T Dawson and D Wynford-Thomas

ABSTRACT

There is increasing evidence that IGF-I plays an autocrine role in a wide range of human tumours, including, in particular, adenomas of the thyroid epithelium. To investigate this further, we set out to generate a retrovirus vector which would permit experimental manipulation of the expression of IGF-I in normal and neoplastic epithelial cells. We describe here the construction and validation of a high-titre ecotropic vector which transduces stable expression and secretion of human IGF-IA, as shown by analysis of mRNA and conditioned medium from rodent epithelial target cells. This vector should be a useful tool for assessing the contribution of abnormal IGF-I expression to the neoplastic phenotype.

Free access

Inge Seim, Amy A Lubik, Melanie L Lehman, Nadine Tomlinson, Eliza J Whiteside, Adrian C Herington, Colleen C Nelson and Lisa K Chopin

Ghrelin is a multifunctional hormone, with roles in stimulating appetite and regulating energy balance, insulin secretion and glucose homoeostasis. The ghrelin gene locus (GHRL) is highly complex and gives rise to a range of novel transcripts derived from alternative first exons and internally spliced exons. The wild-type transcript encodes a 117 amino acid preprohormone that is processed to yield the 28 amino acid peptide ghrelin. Here, we identified insulin-responsive transcription corresponding to cryptic exons in intron 2 of the human ghrelin gene. A transcript, termed in2c-ghrelin (intron 2-cryptic), was cloned from the testis and the LNCaP prostate cancer cell line. This transcript may encode an 83 amino acid preproghrelin isoform that codes for ghrelin, but not obestatin. It is expressed in a limited number of normal tissues and in tumours of the prostate, testis, breast and ovary. Finally, we confirmed that in2c-ghrelin transcript expression, as well as the recently described in1-ghrelin transcript, is significantly upregulated by insulin in cultured prostate cancer cells. Metabolic syndrome and hyperinsulinaemia have been associated with prostate cancer risk and progression. This may be particularly significant after androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, which induces hyperinsulinaemia, and this could contribute to castrate-resistant prostate cancer growth. We have previously demonstrated that ghrelin stimulates prostate cancer cell line proliferation in vitro. This study is the first description of insulin regulation of a ghrelin transcript in cancer and should provide further impetus for studies into the expression, regulation and function of ghrelin gene products.

Free access

Niamh Cosgrave, Arnold D K Hill and Leonie S Young

Survivin has emerged as a unique regulator of cell death through its response to growth factors, such as basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), which we have previously shown to be mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) dependent. The transcriptional complex myc/max is an oncogene that lies downstream of the MAPK pathway, suggesting a possible role in survivin’s regulation. In this study, we investigated the ability of bFGF to induce signalling of the MAPK effector transcription factor c-myc in human breast cancer. Treatment of SK-BR-3 breast cancer cell line with growth factor induced survivin expression and recruitment of c-myc to its response element in the promoter region of the target gene survivin as demonstrated by electromobility shift analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. The promoter region of survivin was assessed using bioinformatic techniques and DNA footprinting. Overexpression of c-myc increased survivin protein expression. This effect was eliminated when siRNA against c-myc was transfected into the cells. c-Myc drove transcriptional activity of survivin when transfected into SK-BR-3 cells with a luciferase reporter vector harbouring the c-myc response element specific for survivin. Using confocal fluorescent microscopy, myc was located to the nucleus of breast tumour epithelial cells and was found to be significantly associated with survivin (P < 0.0001). These data provide evidence that growth factors can signal through the transcription factor c-myc in human breast cancer. They also indicate a role for c-myc in the transcriptional regulation of survivin in breast cancer.

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C Massart, J Gibassier, C Lucas, F Le Gall, S Giscard-Dartevelle, J Bourdinière, M S Moukhtar and M Nicol

ABSTRACT

We studied the hormonal secretion of a human mixed follicular and medullary carcinoma. Thyroglobulin (Tg) secretion, especially by large cells and sometimes by small ones, was visualized with immunoenzymatic staining. Calcitonin (CT) was produced by small spindle-shaped cells. Moreover, immunofluorescence double staining performed on the resected thyroid tissue showed the secretion of both Tg and CT in a small number of cells. The cells lost their hormonal secretion after 2 months of culture. Hormonal secretion was modulated by different additives in the medium. Tg secretion was induced when TSH was added to the culture medium; the maximal effect was produced with the addition of 1 mU TSH/ml and 1 μm cortisol, which potentiated the effect of TSH on Tg production. A durable Tg secretion was obtained by embedding the cells in Engelbretch—Hohn—Swarn (EHS) tumour matrix. The CT production was reinduced by the addition of 4 mm Ca2+, 1 μm glucagon and 1 μm cortisol to the culture medium. These findings show that different cells are found in a mixed follicular and medullary carcinoma, some of which can secrete both CT and Tg. They can remain differentiated for a long period after being embedded in EHS tumour matrix with Ca2+ and hormonal components.