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M Korbonits and AB Grossman

Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted into the circulation from the stomach but also synthesised in a number of tissues, suggesting both endocrine and paracrine effects. These include: stimulation of GH, prolactin and ACTH secretion; an increase in appetite; a diabetogenic effect on carbohydrate metabolism; positive inotropic effects on heart; vasodilatation; and effects on cell proliferation. The possibility of chronic manipulation of the ghrelin system on body weight, growth and appetite remains an exciting new field of exploration.

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S Jordan, K Lidhar, M Korbonits, DG Lowe and AB Grossman

OBJECTIVES: Cyclins play an important role in the regulation of cell progression through the cell cycle. Over-expression of the cyclins has been shown in many different tumour types. Pituitary adenomas are a common form of endocrine neoplasia in the human, but have been little studied in terms of the expression of the principal cyclins regulating checkpoint exit, cyclin D1 and cyclin E. METHODS: We therefore investigated the expression of cyclin D1 and cyclin E in a range of benign and metastatic pituitary tumours. We studied a total of 95 pituitaries, including normal pituitary (n=20), Cushing's disease (n=19), somatotroph tumours (n=19), non-functioning adenomas (n=18), prolactinomas (n=7), aggressive tumours (n=9) and pituitary carcinoma (n=3). All tumours and normal tissue were immunostained for cyclin D1 and cyclin E using a standard technique, and were then subjected to blinded analysis by a single observer and the extent of staining quantified on the basis of 500 cell counts per tissue. The distribution of positive staining between different tissues was analysed by non-parametric test procedures. RESULTS: There was no cytoplasmic staining for cyclin D1 in any tissue. Nuclear staining was generally sparse, but was statistically more frequent in non-functioning and aggressive tumours compared with other tumour types or normal pituitary. Cyclin E was also sparsely expressed, but was specifically increased in corticotroph tumours from patients with Cushing's disease. CONCLUSIONS: We report cyclin D1 over-expression in aggressive and non-functioning pituitary tumours, and that cyclin E expression is more frequently seen in Cushing's disease. The high level of cyclin E expression in Cushing's disease may relate to the low level of p27 protein expression previously reported in corticotroph tumours.

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AM Nanzer, S Khalaf, AM Mozid, RC Fowkes, MV Patel, JM Burrin, AB Grossman and M Korbonits

OBJECTIVES: Ghrelin is a brain-gut peptide with GH-releasing and appetite-inducing activities and a widespread tissue distribution. Ghrelin is the endogenous ligand of the GH secretagogue receptor type 1a (GHS-R1a), and both ghrelin and the GHS-R1a are expressed in the pituitary. There are conflicting data regarding the effects of ghrelin on cell proliferation. A positive effect on proliferation and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway has been found in hepatoma, adipose, cardiomyocyte and prostate cell lines. However, ghrelin has also been shown to have anti-proliferative effects on breast, lung and thyroid cell lines. We therefore examined the effect of ghrelin on the rat pituitary cell line GH3. METHODS: RT-PCR was used for the detection of GHS-R1a and pre-proghrelin mRNA expression in GH3 cells. The effect of ghrelin on cell proliferation was studied using [(3)H]thymidine incorporation; cell counting and the activation of the MAPK pathway were studied using immunoblotting and inhibitors of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK 1/2), protein kinase C (PKC) and tyrosine phosphatase pathways. RESULTS: GHS-R1a and ghrelin mRNA expression were detected in GH3 cells. Ghrelin, at 10(-10) to 10(-6) M concentrations, significantly increased [(3)H]thymidine incorporation (at 10(-9) M, 183+/-13% (means+/-s.e.m.) compared with untreated controls), while 12-phorbol 13-myristate acetate (PMA) at 10(-7) M (used as a positive control) caused a 212+/-14% increase. A reproducible stimulatory effect of desoctanoyl ghrelin was also observed on [(3)H]thymidine incorporation (135+/-5%; P<0.01 at 10(-9) M compared with control), as well as on the cell count (control 6.8 x 10(4)+/-8.7 x 10(3) cells/ml vs desoctanoyl ghrelin (10(-9) M) 1.04 x 10(5)+/-7.5 x 10(3) cells/ml; P<0.01). Ghrelin caused a significant increase in phosphorylated ERK 1/2 in immunoblotting, while desoctanoyl ghrelin showed a smaller but also significant stimulatory effect. The positive effect of ghrelin and desoctanoyl ghrelin on [(3)H]thymidine incorporation was abolished by the MAPK kinase inhibitor U0126, the PKC inhibitor GF109203X and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor tyrphostin 23, suggesting that the ghrelin-induced cell proliferation of GH3 cells is mediated both via a PKC-MAPK-dependent pathway and via a tyrosine kinase-dependent pathway. This could also be clearly demonstrated by Western blot analysis, where a transient increase in ERK 1/2 phosphorylation by ghrelin was attenuated by all three inhibitors. CONCLUSION: We have shown a novel role for ghrelin in stimulating the proliferation of a somatotroph pituitary tumour cell line, suggesting that ERK activation is involved in mediating the effects of ghrelin on cell proliferation. Desoctanoyl ghrelin showed a similar effect. As ghrelin has been shown to be expressed in both normal and adenomatous pituitary tissue, locally produced ghrelin may play a role in pituitary tumorigenesis via an autocrine/paracrine pathway.

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MA Satta, M Korbonits, RA Jacobs, DA Bolden-Dwinfour, GA Kaltsas, V Vangeli, E Adams, R Fahlbusch and AB Grossman

OBJECTIVE: Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1) is an autosomal dominant inherited disorder characterised by the combined occurrence of parathyroid, endocrine pancreas and anterior pituitary tumours. The gene responsible for MEN 1, the menin gene, a putative tumour-suppressor gene located on human chromosome 11q13, has been cloned. To investigate the role of the menin gene in sporadic anterior pituitary tumorigenesis, its mRNA was assessed in a group of pituitary tumours. METHODS: Menin gene expression, along with glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) gene expression, has been studied in a group of normal pituitaries and in 23 pituitary tumours not associated with the MEN 1 syndrome. The pituitary tumours included 4 prolactinomas, 11 growth-hormone-secreting tumours and 8 non-functional tumours. Total RNA was extracted from the normal pituitaries and tumours, and cDNA was synthesised with standard reverse transcriptase methods. Duplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was standardised in order to quantify the expression of the menin gene using intron-spanning primers across exons 9 and 10 in relation to the 'house-keeping' gene GAPDH. The PCR products were separated on agarose gel and densitometric analysis of the bands allowed semi-quantification. RESULTS: There was no evidence for a change in menin gene expression in any of the pituitary tumours when compared with normal pituitaries. CONCLUSIONS: These studies complement previous work on mutational analysis, and do not suggest a major role for the menin suppressor gene in sporadic pituitary tumorigenesis.

Free access

Damian G Morris, Mädälina Muşat, Sándor Czirják, Zoltán Hanzély, Debra M Lillington, Márta Korbonits and Ashley B Grossman

Objectives: Microarray technology allows for the expression profile of many thousands of genes to be quantified at the same time, and has resulted in novel discoveries about the tumour biology of a number of cancers. We sought to do this in pituitary adenomas, the most common intracranial neoplasm.

Methods: Affymetrix GeneChip HG-U133A oligonucleotide arrays covering 14 500 well-characterised genes from the human genome were used to study pooled RNA for each of the four major pituitary adenoma subtypes. Individual gene-expression levels in the tumours were compared relative to the expression profile in normal pooled pituitary RNA. Three differentially expressed genes with potential importance in tumourigenesis were chosen for validation by real-time quantitative PCR on the original tumours and on an additional 26 adenomas.

Results: Bioinformatic analysis showed that 3906 genes and 351 expressed sequence tags were differentially expressed among all pituitary tumour subtypes. Lysosomal-associated protein transmembrane- 4-β (LAPTM4B), a novel gene upregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma, was significantly over-expressed in adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH)-secreting adenomas and non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs). Bcl-2-associated athanogene (BAG1), an anti-apoptotic protein found at high levels in a number of human cancers, was significantly over-expressed in growth hormone-secreting and prolactin-secreting adenomas and NFPAs. The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p18, in which murine gene deletion has been shown to produce pituitary ACTH cell hyperplasia and adenomas, was significantly under-expressed in ACTH-secreting adenomas.

Conclusions: Expression array analysis of pituitary adenomas using the Affymetrix GeneChip HG-U133A arrays appears to be a valid method of identifying genes that may be important in tumour pathogenesis.

Free access

Erika Hubina, Alexandra M Nanzer, Matthew R Hanson, Enrica Ciccarelli, Marco Losa, Daniela Gaia, Mauro Papotti, Maria Rosaria Terreni, Sahira Khalaf, Suzanne Jordan, Sándor Czirják, Zoltán Hanzély, György M Nagy, Miklós I Góth, Ashley B Grossman and Márta Korbonits

Objectives: Somatostatin (SST) analogues play an important role in the medical management of somatotroph pituitary adenomas and new agonists have the potential to be effective in a wider group of pituitary and other tumours. The anti-proliferative effect of SST occurs through multiple mechanisms, one of which is cell-cycle arrest, where p27, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, is an important regulator. We hypothesised that SST may upregulate p27 protein levels and downregulate the MAP kinase pathway in these tumours.

Methods: Human pituitary adenoma cells and rat pituitary cell line (GH3) were cultured and treated in vitro with octreotide and the broad-spectrum SST agonist SOM230 (pasireotide). Immunoblotting for p27 and phospho-ERK (pERK) was performed and proliferation assessed by [3H]-thymidine incorporation. Histological samples from acromegalic patients treated with octreotide before surgery were immunostained for p27 and compared to samples from untreated patients matched for sex, age, tumour size, extension and invasiveness.

Results: We detected upregulation of p27 protein levels with SST analogue treatment in vitro in human pituitary adenoma samples. pERK1/2 was inhibited by SST analogues in both the human samples and GH3 cells. SST and its analogues inhibited the proliferation of GH3 cells. p27 immunostaining was stronger in samples from patients with longer preoperative octreotide treatment (more than 6 months) than in samples from patients with shorter treatment periods.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that SST-mediated growth inhibition is associated with the downregulation of pERK and upregulation of p27. More potent and broader-spectrum SST analogues are likely to play an increasing role in the treatment of tumours, where the MAP kinase pathway is overactivated.

Open access

S R Ali, J Bryce, M Cools, M Korbonits, J G Beun, D Taruscio, T Danne, M Dattani, O M Dekkers, A Linglart, I Netchine, A Nordenstrom, A Patocs, L Persani, N Reisch, A Smyth, Z Sumnik, W E Visser, O Hiort, A M Pereira, S F Ahmed and on behalf of Endo-ERN


To identify cross-border international registries for rare endocrine conditions that are led from Europe and to understand the extent of engagement with these registries within a network of reference centres (RCs) for rare endocrine conditions.


Database search of international registries and a survey of RCs in the European Reference Network for rare endocrine conditions (Endo-ERN) with an overall response rate of 82%.


Of the 42 conditions with orphacodes currently covered within Endo-ERN, international registries exist for 32 (76%). Of 27 registries identified in the Orphanet and RD-Connect databases, Endo-ERN RCs were aware of 11 (41%). Of 21 registries identified by the RC, RD-Connect and Orphanet did not have a record of 10 (48%). Of the 29 glucose RCs, the awareness and participation rate in an international registry was highest for rare diabetes at 75 and 56% respectively. Of the 37 sex development RCs, the corresponding rates were highest for disorders of sex development at 70 and 52%. Of the 33 adrenal RCs, the rates were highest for adrenocortical tumours at 68 and 43%. Of the 43 pituitary RCs, the rates were highest for pituitary adenomas at 43 and 29%. Of the 31 genetic tumour RCs, the rates were highest for MEN1 at 26 and 9%. For the remaining conditions, awareness and participation in registries was less than 25%.


Although there is a need to develop new registries for rare endocrine conditions, there is a more immediate need to improve the awareness and participation in existing registries.

Free access

Ann McCormack, Olaf M Dekkers, Stephan Petersenn, Vera Popovic, Jacqueline Trouillas, Gerald Raverot, Pia Burman and ESE survey collaborators


To collect outcome data in a large cohort of patients with aggressive pituitary tumours (APT)/carcinomas (PC) and specifically report effects of temozolomide (TMZ) treatment.


Electronic survey to ESE members Dec 2015–Nov 2016.


Reports on 166 patients (40 PC, 125 APT, 1 unclassified) were obtained. Median age at diagnosis was 43 (range 4–79) years. 69% of the tumours were clinically functioning, and the most frequent immunohistochemical subtype were corticotroph tumours (45%). Ki-67 index did not distinguish APT from PC, median 7% and 10% respectively. TMZ was first-line chemotherapy in 157 patients. At the end of the treatment (median 9 cycles), radiological evaluation showed complete response (CR) in 6%, partial response (PR) in 31%, stable disease (SD) in 33% and progressive disease in 30%. Response was more frequent in patients receiving concomitant radiotherapy and TMZ. CR was seen only in patients with low MGMT expression. Clinically functioning tumours were more likely to respond than non-functioning tumours, independent of MGMT status. Of patients with CR, PR and SD, 25, 40 and 48% respectively progressed after a median of 12-month follow-up. Other oncological drugs given as primary treatment and to TMZ failures resulted in PR in 20%.


This survey confirms that TMZ is established as first-line chemotherapeutic treatment of APT/PC. Clinically functioning tumours, low MGMT and concurrent radiotherapy were associated with a better response. The limited long-term effect of TMZ and the poor efficacy of other drugs highlight the need to identify additional effective therapies.