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Marily Theodoropoulou, Martin Reincke, Martin Fassnacht, and Masayuki Komada

Cushing's disease (CD) arises from pituitary-dependent glucocorticoid excess due to an ACTH-secreting corticotroph tumor. Genetic hits in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that afflict other pituitary tumor subtypes are not found in corticotrophinomas. Recently, a somatic mutational hotspot was found in up to half of corticotrophinomas in the USP8 gene that encodes a protein that impairs the downregulation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and enables its constitutive signaling. EGF is an important regulator of corticotroph function and its receptor is highly expressed in Cushing's pituitary tumors, where it leads to increased ACTH synthesis in vitro and in vivo. The mutational hotspot found in corticotrophinomas hyper-activates USP8, enabling it to rescue EGFR from lysosomal degradation and ensure its stimulatory signaling. This review presents new developments in the study of the genetics of CD and focuses on the USP8-EGFR system as trigger and target of corticotroph tumorigenesis.

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Bernhard Mayr, Rolf Buslei, Marily Theodoropoulou, Günter K Stalla, Michael Buchfelder, and Christof Schöfl


GH-producing pituitary adenomas display two distinct morphological patterns of cytoplasmic GH-containing secretory granules, namely the densely and sparsely granulated somatotroph adenoma subtype. It is unknown whether these morphological variants reflect distinct pathophysiological entities at the molecular level.


In 28 GH-producing adenoma tissues from a consecutive set of patients undergoing pituitary surgery for acromegaly, we studied the GH granulation pattern, the expression of somatostatin receptor subtypes (SSTR) as well as the calcium, cAMP and ZAC1 pathways in primary adenoma cell cultures.


The expression of GSP oncogene was similar between densely and sparsely granulated somatotroph adenoma cells. There were no differences in the calcium, cAMP and ZAC1 pathways as well as in their regulation by SSTR agonists. SSTR2 was exclusively expressed in densely but not in sparsely granulated tumours (membrane expression 86 vs 0%; cytoplasmic expression 67 vs 0%). By contrast, expression of SSTR5 was only found in sparsely but not in densely granulated somatotroph adenomas (membrane expression 29 vs 0%; cytoplasmic expression 57 vs 0%).


Our results indicate that different granulation patterns in GH-producing adenomas do not reflect differences in pathways and factors pivotal for somatotroph differentiation and function. In vitro, the vast majority of both densely and sparsely granulated tumour cells were responsive to SSTR activation at the molecular level. Sparsely granulated adenomas lacking SSTR2, but expressing SSTR5, might be responsive to novel SSTR agonists with increased affinity to SSTR5.

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Günter K Stalla, Christina Dimopoulou, Caroline Jung-Sievers, Eduardo Arzt, Marcelo Paez Pereda, Marily Theodoropoulou, Denis Ciato, and Ulrich Renner

Although effective treatment regimens (surgical resection, drug treatment with dopamine agonists or somatostatin analogues, radiotherapy) have been established for the therapy of most pituitary tumours, a considerable proportion of affected patients cannot completely cured due to incomplete resection or drug resistance. Moreover, even if hormone levels have been normalized, patients with hormone-secreting tumours still show persistent pathophysiological alterations in metabolic, cardiovascular or neuropsychiatric parameters and have an impaired quality of life. In this review reasons for the discrepancy between biochemical cure and incomplete recovery from tumour-associated comorbidities are discussed and the clinical management is delineated exemplarily for patients with acromegaly and Cushing’s disease. In view of the development of additional treatment concepts for the treatment of pituitary adenomas we speculate about the relevance of RSUME as a potential target for the development of an anti-angiogenic therapy. Moreover, the role of BMP-4 which stimulates prolactinoma development through the Smad signalling cascade is described and its role as putative drug target for the treatment of prolactinomas is discussed. Regarding the well-known resistance of a part of somatotropinomas to somatostatin analogue treatment, recently identified mechanisms responsible for the drug resistance are summarized and ways to overcome them in future treatment concepts are presented. Concerning novel therapeutic options for patients with Cushing’s disease the impact of retinoic acid, which is currently tested in clinical studies, is shown, and the action and putative therapeutic impact of silibinin to resolve glucocorticoid resistance in these patients is critically discussed.

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Luis G Pérez-Rivas, Marily Theodoropoulou, Troy H Puar, Julia Fazel, Mareike R Stieg, Francesco Ferraù, Guillaume Assié, Monica R Gadelha, Timo Deutschbein, Maria C Fragoso, Benno Kusters, Wolfgang Saeger, Jürgen Honegger, Michael Buchfelder, Márta Korbonits, Jérôme Bertherat, Günter K Stalla, Ad R Hermus, Felix Beuschlein, and Martin Reincke


Somatic mutations in the ubiquitin-specific protease 8 (USP8) gene are frequent in corticotroph tumors causing Cushing’s disease (CD). Corticotroph tumor progression, the so-called Nelson’s syndrome (NS), is a potentially life-threatening complication of bilateral adrenalectomy in patients with refractory CD that is caused by the development of an ACTH-secreting tumor of the pituitary gland. Whether USP8 alterations are also present in progressive Nelson’s tumors has not been studied in detail so far.

Design and Methods

Retrospective, multicenter study involving tumors from 33 patients with progressive corticotroph tumors (29 females) and screening for somatic mutations on the mutational hotspot of the USP8 gene in the exon 14 with Sanger sequencing.


Fifteen out of 33 tumors (45%) presented with a mutation in the exon 14 of USP8, with c.2159C>A (p.Pro720Gln) being the most frequent (9/33), followed by c.2155_2157delTCC (p.Ser718del, 4/33) and c.2152T>C (p.Ser718Pro, 2/33). This prevalence is similar to that previously reported for CD. Mutations were found exclusively in females. Other variables, such as age at diagnosis with NS, body mass index, hyperpigmentation, visual field defects, adenoma size or mortality, did not significantly differ between patients with wild-type and mutant tumors. Patients with USP8 mutant tumors exhibited higher levels of plasma ACTH after surgery (median: 640 vs 112 pg/mL, P = 0.03). No differences were observed in ACTH normalization (<50 pg/mL) and tumor control after surgery for Nelson’s tumor.


Somatic mutations in USP8 are common in Nelson’s tumors, indicating that they do not drive the corticotroph tumor progression that leads to NS, and may be associated with a less favorable biochemical outcome after surgery for Nelson’s tumor.

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Maria A Tichomirowa, Anne Barlier, Adrian F Daly, Marie-Lise Jaffrain-Rea, Cristina Ronchi, Maria Yaneva, Jonathan D Urban, Patrick Petrossians, Atanaska Elenkova, Antoine Tabarin, Rachel Desailloud, Dominique Maiter, Thomas Schürmeyer, Renato Cozzi, Marily Theodoropoulou, Caroline Sievers, Ignacio Bernabeu, Luciana A Naves, Olivier Chabre, Carmen Fajardo Montañana, Vaclav Hana, Georges Halaby, Brigitte Delemer, José Ignacio Labarta Aizpún, Emmanuel Sonnet, Ángel Ferrandez Longás, Marie-Thérèse Hagelstein, Philippe Caron, Günter K Stalla, Vincent Bours, Sabina Zacharieva, Anna Spada, Thierry Brue, and Albert Beckers


Aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) mutations (AIPmut) cause aggressive pituitary adenomas in young patients, usually in the setting of familial isolated pituitary adenomas. The prevalence of AIPmut among sporadic pituitary adenoma patients appears to be low; studies have not addressed prevalence in the most clinically relevant population. Hence, we undertook an international, multicenter, prospective genetic, and clinical analysis at 21 tertiary referral endocrine departments.


We included 163 sporadic pituitary macroadenoma patients irrespective of clinical phenotype diagnosed at <30 years of age.


Overall, 19/163 (11.7%) patients had germline AIPmut; a further nine patients had sequence changes of uncertain significance or polymorphisms. AIPmut were identified in 8/39 (20.5%) pediatric patients. Ten AIPmut were identified in 11/83 (13.3%) sporadic somatotropinoma patients, in 7/61 (11.5%) prolactinoma patients, and in 1/16 non-functioning pituitary adenoma patients. Large genetic deletions were not seen using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. Familial screening was possible in the relatives of seven patients with AIPmut and carriers were found in six of the seven families. In total, pituitary adenomas were diagnosed in 2/21 AIPmut-screened carriers; both had asymptomatic microadenomas.


Germline AIPmut occur in 11.7% of patients <30 years with sporadic pituitary macroadenomas and in 20.5% of pediatric patients. AIPmut mutation testing in this population should be considered in order to optimize clinical genetic investigation and management.

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Martin Reincke, Adriana Albani, Guillaume Assie, Irina Bancos, Thierry Brue, Michael Buchfelder, Olivier Chabre, Filippo Ceccato, Andrea Daniele, Mario Detomas, Guido Di Dalmazi, Atanaska Elenkova, James Findling, Ashley B. Grossman, Celso E Gomez-Sanchez, Anthony P Heaney, Juergen Honegger, Niki Karavitaki, Andre Lacroix, Edward R Laws, Marco Losa, Masanori Murakami, John Newell-Price, Francesca Pecori Giraldi, Luis G. Pérez‐Rivas, Rosario Pivonello, William E Rainey, Silviu Sbiera, Jochen Schopohl, Constantine A Stratakis, Marily Theodoropoulou, Elisabeth F.C. van Rossum, Elena Valassi, Sabina Zacharieva, German Rubinstein, and Katrin Ritzel

BACKGROUND: Corticotroph tumor progression (CTP) leading to Nelson’s syndrome (NS) is a severe and difficult-to-treat complication subsequent to bilateral adrenalectomy (BADX) for Cushing’s disease. Its characteristics are not well described, and consensus recommendations for diagnosis and treatment are missing.

METHODS: A systematic literature search was performed focusing on clinical studies and case series (≥5 patients). Definition, incidence, treatment and long-term outcomes of CTP/NS after BADX were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results were presented and discussed at an interdisciplinary consensus workshop attended by international pituitary experts in Munich on October 28th, 2018.

RESULTS: Data covered definition and incidence (34 studies, 1275 patients), surgical outcome (12 studies, 187 patients), outcome of radiation therapy (21 studies, 273 patients), and medical therapy (15 studies, 72 patients).

CONCLUSIONS: We endorse the definition of CTP-BADX/NS as radiological progression or new detection of a pituitary tumor on thin-section MRI. We recommend surveillance by MRI after 3 months and every 12 months for the first 3 years after BADX. Subsequently, we suggest clinical evaluation every 12 months and MRI at increasing intervals every 2-4 years (depending on ACTH and clinical parameters). We recommend pituitary surgery as first-line therapy in patients with CTP-BADX/NS. Surgery should be performed before extrasellar expansion of the tumor to obtain complete and long-term remission. Conventional radiotherapy or stereotactic radiosurgery should be utilized as second-line treatment for remnant tumor tissue showing extrasellar extension.