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Free access

Matthias Kroiss, Dietmar Plonné, Sabine Kendl, Diana Schirmer, Cristina L Ronchi, Andreas Schirbel, Martina Zink, Constantin Lapa, Hartwig Klinker, Martin Fassnacht, Werner Heinz, and Silviu Sbiera

Objective

Oral mitotane (o,p′-DDD) is a cornerstone of medical treatment for adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC).

Aim

Serum mitotane concentrations >14 mg/l are targeted for improved efficacy but not achieved in about half of patients. Here we aimed at a better understanding of intestinal absorption and lipoprotein association of mitotane and metabolites o,p′-dichlorodiphenylacetic acid (o,p′-DDA) and o,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane (o,p′-DDE).

Design

Lipoproteins were isolated by ultracentrifugation from the chyle of a 29-year-old patient and serum from additional 14 ACC patients treated with mitotane. HPLC was applied for quantification of mitotane and metabolites. We assessed NCI–H295 cell viability, cortisol production, and expression of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress marker genes to study the functional consequences of mitotane binding to lipoproteins.

Results

Chyle of the index patient contained 197 mg/ml mitotane, 53 mg/ml o,p′-DDA, and 51 mg/l o,p′-DDE. Of the total mitotane in serum, lipoprotein fractions contained 21.7±21.4% (VLDL), 1.9±0.8% (IDL), 8.9±5.5% (LDL1), 18.9±9.6% (LDL2), 10.1±4.0% (LDL3), and 26.3±13.0% (HDL2). Only 12.3±5.5% were in the lipoprotein-depleted fraction.

Discussion

Mitotane content of lipoproteins directly correlated with their triglyceride and cholesterol content. O,p′-DDE was similarly distributed, but 87.9±4.2% of o,p′-DDA found in the HDL2 and lipoprotein-depleted fractions. Binding of mitotane to human lipoproteins blunted its anti-proliferative and anti-hormonal effects on NCI–H295 cells and reduced ER stress marker gene expression.

Conclusion

Mitotane absorption involves chylomicron binding. High concentrations of o,p′-DDA and o,p′-DDE in chyle suggest intestinal mitotane metabolism. In serum, the majority of mitotane is bound to lipoproteins. In vitro, lipoprotein binding inhibits activity of mitotane suggesting that lipoprotein-free mitotane is the therapeutically active fraction.

Free access

Martin Fassnacht, Wiebke Arlt, Irina Bancos, Henning Dralle, John Newell-Price, Anju Sahdev, Antoine Tabarin, Massimo Terzolo, Stylianos Tsagarakis, and Olaf M Dekkers

By definition, an adrenal incidentaloma is an asymptomatic adrenal mass detected on imaging not performed for suspected adrenal disease. In most cases, adrenal incidentalomas are nonfunctioning adrenocortical adenomas, but may also represent conditions requiring therapeutic intervention (e.g. adrenocortical carcinoma, pheochromocytoma, hormone-producing adenoma or metastasis). The purpose of this guideline is to provide clinicians with best possible evidence-based recommendations for clinical management of patients with adrenal incidentalomas based on the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. We predefined four main clinical questions crucial for the management of adrenal incidentaloma patients, addressing these four with systematic literature searches: (A) How to assess risk of malignancy?; (B) How to define and manage low-level autonomous cortisol secretion, formerly called ‘subclinical’ Cushing’s syndrome?; (C) Who should have surgical treatment and how should it be performed?; (D) What follow-up is indicated if the adrenal incidentaloma is not surgically removed?

Selected recommendations:

(i) At the time of initial detection of an adrenal mass establishing whether the mass is benign or malignant is an important aim to avoid cumbersome and expensive follow-up imaging in those with benign disease. (ii) To exclude cortisol excess, a 1mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test should be performed (applying a cut-off value of serum cortisol ≤50nmol/L (1.8µg/dL)). (iii) For patients without clinical signs of overt Cushing’s syndrome but serum cortisol levels post 1mg dexamethasone >138nmol/L (>5µg/dL), we propose the term ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’. (iv) All patients with ‘(possible) autonomous cortisol’ secretion should be screened for hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus, to ensure these are appropriately treated. (v) Surgical treatment should be considered in an individualized approach in patients with ‘autonomous cortisol secretion’ who also have comorbidities that are potentially related to cortisol excess. (vi) In principle, the appropriateness of surgical intervention should be guided by the likelihood of malignancy, the presence and degree of hormone excess, age, general health and patient preference. (vii) Surgery is not usually indicated in patients with an asymptomatic, nonfunctioning unilateral adrenal mass and obvious benign features on imaging studies. We provide guidance on which surgical approach should be considered for adrenal masses with radiological findings suspicious of malignancy. Furthermore, we offer recommendations for the follow-up of patients with adrenal incidentaloma who do not undergo adrenal surgery, for those with bilateral incidentalomas, for patients with extra-adrenal malignancy and adrenal masses and for young and elderly patients with adrenal incidentalomas

Free access

Martin Fassnacht, Olaf M Dekkers, Tobias Else, Eric Baudin, Alfredo Berruti, Ronald R de Krijger, Harm R Haak, Radu Mihai, Guillaume Assie, and Massimo Terzolo

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare and in most cases steroid hormone-producing tumor with variable prognosis. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide clinicians with best possible evidence-based recommendations for clinical management of patients with ACC based on the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) system. We predefined four main clinical questions, which we judged as particularly important for the management of ACC patients and performed systematic literature searches: (A) What is needed to diagnose an ACC by histopathology? (B) Which are the best prognostic markers in ACC? (C) Is adjuvant therapy able to prevent recurrent disease or reduce mortality after radical resection? (D) What is the best treatment option for macroscopically incompletely resected, recurrent or metastatic disease? Other relevant questions were discussed within the group. Selected Recommendations: (i) We recommend that all patients with suspected and proven ACC are discussed in a multidisciplinary expert team meeting. (ii) We recommend that every patient with (suspected) ACC should undergo careful clinical assessment, detailed endocrine work-up to identify autonomous hormone excess and adrenal-focused imaging. (iii) We recommend that adrenal surgery for (suspected) ACC should be performed only by surgeons experienced in adrenal and oncological surgery aiming at a complete en bloc resection (including resection of oligo-metastatic disease). (iv) We suggest that all suspected ACC should be reviewed by an expert adrenal pathologist using the Weiss score and providing Ki67 index. (v) We suggest adjuvant mitotane treatment in patients after radical surgery that have a perceived high risk of recurrence (ENSAT stage III, or R1 resection, or Ki67 >10%). (vi) For advanced ACC not amenable to complete surgical resection, local therapeutic measures (e.g. radiation therapy, radiofrequency ablation, chemoembolization) are of particular value. However, we suggest against the routine use of adrenal surgery in case of widespread metastatic disease. In these patients, we recommend either mitotane monotherapy or mitotane, etoposide, doxorubicin and cisplatin depending on prognostic parameters. In selected patients with a good response, surgery may be subsequently considered. (vii) In patients with recurrent disease and a disease-free interval of at least 12 months, in whom a complete resection/ablation seems feasible, we recommend surgery or alternatively other local therapies. Furthermore, we offer detailed recommendations about the management of mitotane treatment and other supportive therapies. Finally, we suggest directions for future research.

Free access

Britta Heinze, Leonie J M Herrmann, Martin Fassnacht, Cristina L Ronchi, Holger S Willenberg, Marcus Quinkler, Nicole Reisch, Martina Zink, Bruno Allolio, and Stefanie Hahner

Context

The Li–Fraumeni tumor syndrome is strongly associated with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) and is caused by germline mutations in TP53 in 70% of cases. Also, TP53 polymorphisms have been shown to influence both cancer risk and clinical outcome in several tumor entities. We, therefore, investigated TP53 polymorphisms in a cohort of adult patients with ACC.

Objective

Evaluation of the role of TP53 polymorphisms in adult patients with ACC.

Subjects and methods

Peripheral blood for DNA extraction was collected from 72 ACC patients. Polymorphism analysis was carried out by amplification and sequencing of exons and adjacent intron sections of TP53. Results were correlated with clinical data and the distribution of the polymorphisms was compared with published Caucasian control groups.

Results

Compared with control groups, genotype frequencies of analyzed TP53 polymorphisms among ACC patients were significantly different in three out of four polymorphisms: IVS2+38G>C (G/G, P=0.0248), IVS3ins16 (NoIns/NoIns, P<0.0001; NoIns/Ins, P<0.0001), and IVS6+62A>G (G/G, P<0.0001; G/A, P<0.0001). Overall, the survival of ACC patients, which harbored at least one of the less frequent genotype variants of four analyzed polymorphisms (n=23), was significantly inferior (median survival: 81.0 months in patients with the common homozygous genotypes vs 20.0 months in patients with the less frequent genotypes, HR 2.56, 95% CI 1.66–7.07; P=0.001). These results were confirmed by multivariable regression analysis (HR 2.84, 95% CI 1.52–7.17; P=0.037).

Conclusion

Some TP53 polymorphisms seem to influence overall survival in ACC patients. This effect was observed for a combination of polymorphic changes rather than for single polymorphisms.

Free access

Julia Wendler, Matthias Kroiss, Katja Gast, Michael C Kreissl, Stephanie Allelein, Urs Lichtenauer, Rainer Blaser, Christine Spitzweg, Martin Fassnacht, Matthias Schott, Dagmar Führer, and Vera Tiedje

Context

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is an orphan disease and confers a dismal prognosis. Standard treatment is not established.

Objective

The aim of this study is to describe clinical characteristics, current treatment regimens and outcome of ATC and to identify clinical prognostic markers and treatment factors associated with improved prognosis.

Design

Retrospective cohort study at five German tertiary care centers.

Patients and methods

Totally 100 ATC patients diagnosed between 2000 and 2015 were included in the analysis. Disease-specific overall survival (OS) was compared with the Kaplan–Meier method and log-rank test; Cox proportional hazard model was used to identify risk factors.

Results

The 6-month, 1-year and 5-year disease-specific OS rates were 37, 28 and 5%, respectively. Stage-dependent OS at 6 months was 78, 54 and 18% for stage IVA, B and C, respectively. 29% patients survived >1 year. Multivariate analysis of OS identified age ≥70 years, incomplete local resection status and the presence of distant metastasis as significant risk factors associated with shorter survival. Radical surgery (hazard ratio [HR] 2.20, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19–4.09, P = 0.012), external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) ≥40 Gy (HR = 0.34, 0.15–0.76, P = 0.008) and any kind of chemotherapy (CTX) (HR = 11.64, 2.42–60.39, P = 0.003) were associated with longer survival in multivariate analyses adjusted for age and tumor stage. A multimodal treatment regimen was significantly associated with a survival benefit (HR = 1.04, 1.01–1.08, P < 0.0001) only in IVC patients.

Conclusion

Disease-specific OS is still poor in ATC. Treatment factors associated with improved OS provide a rationale to devise treatment pathways for routine care. Collaborative research structures should be aimed to advance treatment of ATC.

Free access

Stephan Petersenn, Paul-Ajoy Richter, Thomas Broemel, Christian O Ritter, Timo Deutschbein, Frank-Ulrich Beil, Bruno Allolio, Martin Fassnacht, and for the German ACC Study Group

Objective

Thresholds of 2–20 hounsfield units (HU) in unenhanced computed tomography (CT) are suggested to discriminate benign adrenal tumors (BATs) from malignant adrenal tumors. However, these studies included only low numbers of adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs). This study defines a HU threshold by inclusion of a large cohort of ACCs.

Design

Retrospective, blinded, comparative analysis of CT scans from 51 patients with ACCs (30 females, median age 49 years) and 25 patients with BATs (12 females, median age 64 years) diagnosed during the period of 2005–2010 was performed.

Methods

Tumor density was evaluated in unenhanced CT by two blinded investigators.

Results

Median tumor size was 9 cm (range 2.0–20) for ACCs vs 4 cm (2.0–7.5) for BATs (P<0.0001). In ACCs, the median unenhanced HU value was 34 (range 14–74) in comparison with 5 (−13 to 40) in BATs (P<0.0001). ROC analysis revealed a HU of 21 as threshold with the best diagnostic accuracy (sensitivity 96%, specificity 80%, and AUC 0.89). However, two ACCs that were 5 and 6 cm in size would have been missed. Setting the threshold to 13.9 allowed for 100% sensitivity, but a lower specificity of 68%.

Conclusions

This first large study on ACCs confirmed that the vast majority of ACCs have unenhanced HU >21. However, to avoid misdiagnosing an ACC as benign, a threshold of 13 should be used.

Open access

Jacqueline Dinnes, Irina Bancos, Lavinia Ferrante di Ruffano, Vasileios Chortis, Clare Davenport, Susan Bayliss, Anju Sahdev, Peter Guest, Martin Fassnacht, Jonathan J Deeks, and Wiebke Arlt

Objective

Adrenal masses are incidentally discovered in 5% of CT scans. In 2013/2014, 81 million CT examinations were undertaken in the USA and 5 million in the UK. However, uncertainty remains around the optimal imaging approach for diagnosing malignancy. We aimed to review the evidence on the accuracy of imaging tests for differentiating malignant from benign adrenal masses.

Design

A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted.

Methods

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, Science Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index, and ZETOC (January 1990 to August 2015). We included studies evaluating the accuracy of CT, MRI, or 18F-fluoro-deoxyglucose (FDG)-PET compared with an adequate histological or imaging-based follow-up reference standard.

Results

We identified 37 studies suitable for inclusion, after screening 5469 references and 525 full-text articles. Studies evaluated the accuracy of CT (n=16), MRI (n=15), and FDG-PET (n=9) and were generally small and at high or unclear risk of bias. Only 19 studies were eligible for meta-analysis. Limited data suggest that CT density >10HU has high sensitivity for detection of adrenal malignancy in participants with no prior indication for adrenal imaging, that is, masses with ≤10HU are unlikely to be malignant. All other estimates of test performance are based on too small numbers.

Conclusions

Despite their widespread use in routine assessment, there is insufficient evidence for the diagnostic value of individual imaging tests in distinguishing benign from malignant adrenal masses. Future research is urgently needed and should include prospective test validation studies for imaging and novel diagnostic approaches alongside detailed health economics analysis.

Free access

Dirk Weismann, Mirko Peitzsch, Anna Raida, Aleksander Prejbisz, Maria Gosk, Anna Riester, Holger S Willenberg, Reiner Klemm, Georg Manz, Timo Deutschbein, Matthias Kroiss, Roland Därr, Martin Bidlingmaier, Andrzej Januszewicz, Graeme Eisenhofer, and Martin Fassnacht

Background

Reports conflict concerning measurements of plasma metanephrines (MNs) for diagnosis of pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas (PPGLs) by immunoassays compared with other methods. We aimed to compare the performance of a commercially available enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA) kit with liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometric (LC–MS/MS) measurements of MNs to diagnose PPGLs.

Methods

In a substudy of a prospective, multicenter trial to study the biochemical profiles of monoamine-producing tumors, we included 341 patients (174 males and 167 females) with suspected PPGLs (median age 54 years), of whom 54 had confirmed PPGLs. Plasma MNs were measured by EIA and LC–MS/MS, each in a specialized laboratory.

Results

Plasma normetanephrine (NMN) and MN were measured 60 and 39% lower by EIA than by LC–MS/MS. Using upper cut-offs stipulated for the EIA, diagnostic sensitivity was only 74.1% at a specificity of 99.3%. In contrast, use of similar cut-offs for MN and overall lower age-adjusted cut-offs for NMN measured by LC–MS/MS returned a diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 98.1 and 99.7%. Areas under receiver-operating characteristic curves, nevertheless, indicated comparable diagnostic performance of the EIA (0.993) and LC–MS/MS (0.985). Diagnostic sensitivity for the EIA increased to 96.2% with a minimal loss in specificity (95.1%) following use of cut-offs for the EIA adapted to correct for the negative bias.

Conclusions

The EIA underestimates plasma MNs and diagnostic sensitivity is poor using commonly stipulated cut-offs, resulting in a high risk for missing patients with PPGLs. Correction of this shortcoming can be achieved by appropriately determined cut-offs resulting in comparable diagnostic performance of EIA and LC–MS/MS assays.

Free access

Cristina L Ronchi, Erika Peverelli, Sabine Herterich, Isabel Weigand, Giovanna Mantovani, Thomas Schwarzmayr, Silviu Sbiera, Bruno Allolio, Jürgen Honegger, Silke Appenzeller, Andrea G Lania, Martin Reincke, Davide Calebiro, Anna Spada, Michael Buchfelder, Joerg Flitsch, Tim M Strom, and Martin Fassnacht

Context

Alterations in the cAMP signaling pathway are common in hormonally active endocrine tumors. Somatic mutations at GNAS are causative in 30–40% of GH-secreting adenomas. Recently, mutations affecting the USP8 and PRKACA gene have been reported in ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas and cortisol-secreting adrenocortical adenomas respectively. However, the pathogenesis of many GH-secreting adenomas remains unclear.

Aim

Comprehensive genetic characterization of sporadic GH-secreting adenomas and identification of new driver mutations.

Design

Screening for somatic mutations was performed in 67 GH-secreting adenomas by targeted sequencing for GNAS, PRKACA, and USP8 mutations (n=31) and next-generation exome sequencing (n=36).

Results

By targeted sequencing, known activating mutations in GNAS were detected in five cases (16.1%), while no somatic mutations were observed in both PRKACA and USP8. Whole-exome sequencing identified 132 protein-altering somatic mutations in 31/36 tumors with a median of three mutations per sample (range: 1–13). The only recurrent mutations have been observed in GNAS (31.4% of cases). However, seven genes involved in cAMP signaling pathway were affected in 14 of 36 samples and eight samples harbored variants in genes involved in the calcium signaling or metabolism. At the enrichment analysis, several altered genes resulted to be associated with developmental processes. No significant correlation between genetic alterations and the clinical data was observed.

Conclusion

This study provides a comprehensive analysis of somatic mutations in a large series of GH-secreting adenomas. No novel recurrent genetic alterations have been observed, but the data suggest that beside cAMP pathway, calcium signaling might be involved in the pathogenesis of these tumors.

Free access

Valeria Laufs, Barbara Altieri, Silviu Sbiera, Stefan Kircher, Sonja Steinhauer, Felix Beuschlein, Marcus Quinkler, Holger S Willenberg, Andreas Rosenwald, Martin Fassnacht, and Cristina L Ronchi

Objective

Platinum-based chemotherapy (PBC) is the most effective cytotoxic treatment for advanced adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC). Excision repair cross complementing group 1 (ERCC1) plays a critical role in the repair of platinum-induced DNA damage. Two studies investigating the role of ERCC1 immunostaining as a predictive marker for the response to PBC in ACC had reported conflicting results. Both studies used the ERCC1-antibody clone 8F1 that later turned out to be not specific. The aim of this study was to evaluate the predictive role of ERCC1 with a new specific antibody in a larger series of ACC.

Design and methods

146 ACC patients with available FFPE slides were investigated. All patients underwent PBC (median cycles = 6), including cisplatin (n = 131) or carboplatin (n = 15), in most cases combined with etoposide (n = 144), doxorubicin (n = 131) and mitotane (n = 131). Immunostaining was performed with the novel ERCC1-antibody clone 4F9. The relationship between ERCC1 expression and clinicopathological parameters, as well as best objective response to therapy and progression-free survival (PFS) during PBC was evaluated.

Results

High ERCC1 expression was observed in 66% of ACC samples. During PBC, 43 patients experienced objective response (29.5%), 49 stable disease (33.6%), 8 mixed response (5.5%) and 46 progressive disease (31.5%) without any relationship with the ERCC1 immunostaining. No significant correlation was also found between ERCC1 expression and progression-free survival (median 6.5 vs 6 months, P=0.33, HR = 1.23, 95% CI = 0.82–2.0).

Conclusion

ERCC1 expression is not directly associated with sensitivity to PBC in ACC. Thus, other predictive biomarkers are required to support treatment decisions in patients with ACC.