The regulation of the ACTH-receptor gene is unique in that it is up-regulated by its own ligand, ACTH. Ligand-induced up-regulation of ACTH-receptor expression may be an important adaptive process directed towards optimizing adrenal responsiveness to ACTH in the context of physiological stress and the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis in which the adrenals play a pivotal role. Whereas enhancement by ligand-induced up-regulation permits a more efficient and rapid glucocorticoid response, negative feedback regulation of glucocorticoids in the hypothalamus and pituitary inhibits ACTH secretion and allows a balanced adrenal response to stress. Since the cloning of the promoter region of the ACTH receptor, considerable progress in the understanding of the regulatory processes has been made. The effects of ACTH on ACTH-receptor expression is dependent on cAMP, probably mediated through AP-1.The profound effect of three SF-1-binding sites in the ACTH-receptor promoter was demonstrated by deletion experiments. Conversely, ACTH-receptor expression can be suppressed by adrenal-specific transcription factors,like DAX-1.Despite an extensive search, no activating ACTH-receptor mutations have been found in adrenal tumors,excluding the ACTH receptor as a relevant oncogene in adrenal tumorigenesis. However, the ACTH receptor may act as a differentiation factor as suggested by LOH in adrenal carcinomas with an undifferentiated tumor type.In benign adrenal tumors, a strong correlation between ACTH-receptor expression and expression of P450 steroidogenic enzymes is evident. This close regulative relationship is lost in adrenal carcinoma, probably as a result of tumor dedifferentiation. Down-regulation of ACTH-receptor expression in normal and neoplastic tissue can be achieved by adrenostatic compounds such as aminoglutethimide and metyrapone.
F Beuschlein, M Fassnacht, A Klink, B Allolio, and M Reincke
S Zenkert, B Schubert, M Fassnacht, F Beuschlein, B Allolio, and M Reincke
The rate limiting step in steroidogenesis is cholesterol transport through the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane and the cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage (P450scc) complex. The protein factor responsible for this transport, and as such necessary for regulating the acute production of steroids, has been identified and named the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR). We investigated the expression of StAR in functional and non-functional adrenal neoplasms and compared the expression with that of P450scc. Poly A RNA was extracted from normal adrenal glands (NAG, n=5), aldosterone producing adenomas (APA, n=4), cortisol producing adenomas (CPA, n=5), adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC, n=6) and non-functional adenomas (NFA, n=3), electrophoresed through a 1% agarose gel, blotted and hybridised with a PCR-generated cDNA labelled with [(32)P]CTP. The blots were stripped and re-hybridised with a P450scc cDNA and a mouse beta-actin probe. Compared with P450scc, StAR mRNA expression showed little variability in the magnitude of expression and did not correlate with the endocrine profiles (NAG: StAR 100+/-16%, P450scc 100+/-14%; APA: StAR 80+/-3%, P450scc 94+/-13%; CPA: StAR 71+/-10%, P450scc 109+/-15%; NFA: StAR 64+/-9.5%, P450scc 18+/-5%; means+/-s.e.m.). ACC expressed low levels of both genes probably as a result of dedifferentiation (StAR 29+/-9%, P450scc 46+/-18%). Incubation of the NCI-h295 tumour cell line with 10nmol ACTH and 10micromol forskolin induced an increase in the abundance of StAR and P450scc mRNA, demonstrating gene regulation by the cAMP protein kinase A pathway. Furthermore, we incubated the NCI-h295 tumour cell line with the adrenostatic compounds, aminoglutethimide and metyrapone. We could not detect an effect on the expression of StAR mRNA, whereas the expression of P450scc mRNA was significantly reduced. We conclude that, in contrast to P450scc, StAR seems to be evenly expressed in adrenocortical adenomas. Therefore, the endocrine activity of a given tumour cannot be explained by the abundance of StAR expression. In ACC, both StAR and P450scc expression is low, explaining the relatively inefficient steroid production of these tumours.
C Wachenfeld, F Beuschlein, O Zwermann, P Mora, M Fassnacht, B Allolio, and M Reincke
OBJECTIVE: Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare neoplasm with poor prognosis. Discerning ACCs from benign adenomas histologically may be difficult if invasion into surrounding tissues or metastases are missing. DESIGN: In order to establish molecular markers for malignancy, we analyzed seven normal adrenals, three massive macronodular ACTH-independent adrenocortical hyperplasias (MMAHs), 30 adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) and ten ACCs. METHODS: All tissues were studied for the presence of alterations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene using the PAb 1801 antibody, which detects mutant p53 protein and the pYNZ22 microsatellite marker to show loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at 17p, for expression of the proliferation-associated antigen Ki67 using the MIB1 antibody, for the rate of apoptotic tumor cells with the TdT-mediated dUTP biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) method, and for LOH of 11q13 (menin gene locus) with the D11S956 microsatellite marker. RESULTS: 0/3 MMAH, 1/28 ACA and 3/10 ACC revealed immunopositive staining for p53. LOH for pYNZ22 was observed in 1/3 MMAH, 1/23 informative ACA and 6/6 informative ACC. The rate of apoptotic cells was significantly higher in ACC (P<0.0001 by ANOVA) than in ACA but there was some overlap between groups. The Ki67 index (% immunopositive cells) was 1.9+/-1.30% (mean+/-s.d.) in normal adrenals, 3.47+/-1.37% in MMAH, and 2.11+/-1.01% in ACA. ACC had the highest Ki67 index of 11.94+/-7.58% distinguishing all ACC from the ACA and MMAH studied with a cut-off level of 5%. LOH for 11q13 was detected in 2/3 MMAH, 5/26 ACA and 6/8 ACC. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that a Ki67 index above 5% is a sensitive and specific indicator of ACC and may be useful in the differentiation of adenomas from carcinomas.
U Arshad, M Taubert, M Kurlbaum, S Frechen, S Herterich, F Megerle, S Hamacher, M Fassnacht, U Fuhr, and M Kroiss
Mitotane is used for the treatment of adrenocortical carcinoma. High oral daily doses of typically 1–6 g are required to attain therapeutic concentrations. The drug has a narrow therapeutic index and patient management is difficult because of a high volume of distribution, very long elimination half-life and drug interaction through induction of metabolizing enzymes. The present evaluation aimed at the development of a population pharmacokinetic model of mitotane to facilitate therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM).
Appropriate dosing information, plasma concentrations (1137 data points) and covariates were available from TDM of 76 adrenocortical carcinoma patients treated with mitotane. Using nonlinear mixed-effects modeling, a simple structural model was first developed, with subsequent introduction of metabolic autoinduction. Covariate data were analyzed to improve overall model predictability. Simulations were performed to assess the attainment of therapeutic concentrations with clinical dosing schedules.
A one-compartment pharmacokinetic model with first order absorption was found suitable to describe the data, with an estimated central volume of distribution of 6086 L related to a high interindividual variability of 81.5%. Increase in clearance of mitotane during treatment could be modeled by a linear enzyme autoinduction process. BMI was found to have an influence upon disposition kinetics of mitotane. Model simulations favor a high-dose regimen to rapidly attain therapeutic concentrations, with the first TDM suggested on day 16 of treatment to avoid systemic toxicity.
The proposed model describes mitotane pharmacokinetics and can be used to facilitate therapy by predicting plasma concentrations.
T Vanbrabant, M Fassnacht, G Assie, and O M Dekkers
Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a malignancy with a poor prognosis. Many publications in ACC report on risk factors for a poor outcome; one risk factor studied is hormonal hypersecretion (cortisol, sex-hormones, steroid precursors or aldosterone). The aim of this systematic review was to study the association between hormonal secretion and recurrence or mortality in ACC.
Systematic review and meta-analysis. We searched PubMed, EMBASE and The Cochrane library (January 2018) for cohort studies examining the association between hormonal secretion on overall or recurrence-free survival in ACC.
A random-effects model meta-analysis was performed to obtain a weighted relative risk comparing cortisol-secreting and/or androgen-secreting ACCs to non-secreting tumours regarding overall and recurrence-free survival. Risk of bias assessment was performed for all studies included.
Nineteen publications were included representing a total of 3814 patients. Most studies were generally considered low/intermediate risk of bias. Meta-analysis showed higher mortality risk for cortisol-secreting ACCs, weighted relative risk 1.71 (95% CI: 1.18–2.47) combining studies that adjusted for tumour stage; also a higher recurrence risk was found for cortisol producing ACCs, relative risk 1.43 (95% CI: 1.18–1.73). Androgen secretion was not clearly associated with survival (RR: 0.82, 95% CI: 0.60–1.12).
This systematic review and meta-analysis show that cortisol-secreting ACCs are associated with a worse overall survival; future research is needed to establish whether this association points to negative effects of cortisol action, whether it signifies a more aggressive ACC subtype or whether cortisol is merely a prognostic marker.
C T Fuss, M Treitl, N Rayes, P Podrabsky, W K Fenske, D A Heinrich, M Reincke, T-O Petersen, M Fassnacht, M Quinkler, R Kickuth, and S Hahner
Adrenal vein sampling (AVS) represents the current diagnostic standard for subtype differentiation in primary aldosteronism (PA). However, AVS has its drawbacks. It is invasive, expensive, requires an experienced interventional radiologist and comes with radiation exposure. However, exact radiation exposure of patients undergoing AVS has never been examined.
Design and methods
We retrospectively analyzed radiation exposure of 656 AVS performed between 1999 and 2017 at four university hospitals. The primary outcomes were dose area product (DAP) and fluoroscopy time (FT). Consecutively the effective dose (ED) was approximately calculated.
Median DAP was found to be 32.5 Gy*cm2 (0.3–3181) and FT 18 min (0.3–184). The calculated ED was 6.4 mSv (0.1–636). Remarkably, values between participating centers highly varied: Median DAP ranged from 16 to 147 Gy*cm2, FT from 16 to 27 min, and ED from 3.2 to 29 mSv. As main reason for this variation, differences regarding AVS protocols between centers could be identified, such as number of sampling locations, frames per second and the use of digital subtraction angiographies.
This first systematic assessment of radiation exposure in AVS not only shows fairly high values for patients, but also states notable differences among the centers. Thus, we not only recommend taking into account the risk of radiation exposure, when referring patients to undergo AVS, but also to establish improved standard operating procedures to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure.
Irina Bancos, Shrikant Tamhane, Muhammad Shah, Danae A Delivanis, Fares Alahdab, Wiebke Arlt, Martin Fassnacht, and M Hassan Murad
To perform a systematic review of published literature on adrenal biopsy and to assess its performance in diagnosing adrenal malignancy.
Medline In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trial were searched from inception to February 2016. Reviewers extracted data and assessed methodological quality in duplicate.
We included 32 observational studies reporting on 2174 patients (39.4% women, mean age 59.8 years) undergoing 2190 adrenal mass biopsy procedures. Pathology was described in 1621/2190 adrenal lesions (689 metastases, 68 adrenocortical carcinomas, 64 other malignancies, 464 adenomas, 226 other benign, 36 pheochromocytomas, and 74 others). The pooled non-diagnostic rate (30 studies, 2013 adrenal biopsies) was 8.7% (95%CI: 6–11%). The pooled complication rate (25 studies, 1339 biopsies) was 2.5% (95%CI: 1.5–3.4%). Studies were at a moderate risk for bias. Most limitations related to patient selection, assessment of outcome, and adequacy of follow-up. Only eight studies (240 patients) could be included in the diagnostic performance analysis with a sensitivity and specificity of 87 and 100% for malignancy, 70 and 98% for adrenocortical carcinoma, and 87 and 96% for metastasis respectively.
Evidence based on small sample size and moderate risk of bias suggests that adrenal biopsy appears to be most useful in the diagnosis of adrenal metastasis in patients with a history of extra-adrenal malignancy. Adrenal biopsy should only be performed if the expected findings are likely to alter the management of the individual patient and after biochemical exclusion of catecholamine-producing tumors to help prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
M Terzolo, A E Baudin, A Ardito, M Kroiss, S Leboulleux, F Daffara, P Perotti, R A Feelders, J H deVries, B Zaggia, S De Francia, M Volante, H R Haak, B Allolio, A Al Ghuzlan, M Fassnacht, and A Berruti
Mitotane plasma concentrations ≥14 mg/l have been shown to predict tumor response and better survival in patients with advanced adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC). A correlation between mitotane concentrations and patient outcome has not been demonstrated in an adjuvant setting.
To compare recurrence-free survival (RFS) in patients who reached and maintained mitotane concentrations ≥14 mg/l vs patients who did not.
Design and setting
Retrospective analysis at six referral European centers.
Patients with ACC who were radically resected between 1995 and 2009 and were treated adjuvantly with mitotane targeting concentrations of 14–20 mg/l.
Main outcome measures
RFS (primary) and overall survival (secondary).
Of the 122 patients included, 63 patients (52%) reached and maintained during a median follow-up of 36 months the target mitotane concentrations (group 1) and 59 patients (48%) did not (group 2). ACC recurrence was observed in 22 patients of group 1 (35%) and 36 patients in group 2 (61%). In multivariable analysis, the maintenance of target mitotane concentrations was associated with a significantly prolonged RFS (hazard ratio (HR) of recurrence: 0.418, 0.22–0.79; P=0.007), while the risk of death was not significantly altered (HR: 0.59, 0.26–1.34; P=0.20). Grades 3–4 toxicity was observed in 11 patients (9%) and was managed with temporary mitotane discontinuation. None of the patients discontinued mitotane definitively for toxicity.
Mitotane concentrations ≥14 mg/l predict response to adjuvant treatment being associated with a prolonged RFS. A monitored adjuvant mitotane treatment may benefit patients after radical removal of ACC.
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?
(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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.