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Cristina L Ronchi, Matthias Kroiss, Silviu Sbiera, Timo Deutschbein and Martin Fassnacht

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is not only a rare and heterogeneous disease but also one of the most aggressive endocrine tumors. Despite significant advances in the last decade, its pathogenesis is still only incompletely understood and overall therapeutic means are unsatisfactory. Herein, we provide our personal view of the currently available treatment options and suggest the following research efforts that we consider timely and necessary to improve therapy: i) for better outcome in localized ACCs, surgery should be restricted to experienced centers, which should then collaborate closely to address the key surgical questions (e.g. best approach and extent of surgery) in a multicenter manner. ii) For the development of better systemic therapies, it is crucial to elucidate the exact molecular mechanisms of action of mitotane. iii) A prospective trial is needed to address the role of cytotoxic drugs in the adjuvant setting in aggressive ACCs (e.g. mitotane vs mitotane+cisplatin). iv) For metastatic ACCs, new regimens should be investigated as first-line therapy. v) Several other issues (e.g. the role of radiotherapy and salvage therapies) might be answered – at least in a first step – by large retrospective multicenter studies. In conclusion, although it is unrealistic to expect that the majority of ACCs can be cured within the next decade, international collaborative efforts (including multiple translational and clinical studies) should allow significant improvement of clinical outcome of this disease. To this end, it might be reasonable to expand the European Network for the Study of Adrenal Tumors (ENSAT) to a truly worldwide international network – INSAT.

Free access

Sebastian Wortmann, Marcus Quinkler, Christian Ritter, Matthias Kroiss, Sarah Johanssen, Stefanie Hahner, Bruno Allolio and Martin Fassnacht

Objective

No standard therapy for advanced adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is established by any randomized trial but a consensus conference 2003 recommended mitotane as monotherapy or combined with etoposide, doxorubicin and cisplatin or with streptozotocin as first-line systemic therapy. However, there is no evidence for any therapy beneficial in patients failing these therapies. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of the anti-VEGF antibody bevacizumab plus capecitabine as salvage therapy in ACC.

Methods

Patients registered with the German ACC Registry with refractory ACC progressing after cytotoxic therapies were offered treatment with bevacizumab (5 mg/kg body weight i.v. every 21 days) and oral capecitabine (950 mg/m2 twice daily for 14 days followed by 7 days of rest) in 2006–2008. Evaluation of tumour response was performed by imaging according to response evaluation criteria in solid tumours every 12 weeks.

Results

Ten patients were treated with bevacizumab plus capecitabine. None of them experienced any objective response or stable disease. Two patients had to stop therapy after few weeks due to hand-foot syndrome, and three patients died on progressive disease within 12 weeks. Other adverse events were mild (grade I–II). Median survival after treatment initiation was 124 days.

Conclusions

Bevacizumab plus capecitabine has no activity in patients with very advanced ACC. Hence, this regimen cannot be recommended as a salvage therapy.

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.

Restricted access

Sophie Schweitzer, Meik Kunz, Max Kurlbaum, Johannes Vey, Sabine Kendl, Timo Deutschbein, Stefanie Hahner, Martin Fassnacht, Thomas Dandekar and Matthias Kroiss

Objective

Current workup for the pre-operative distinction between frequent adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs) and rare but aggressive adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs) combines imaging and biochemical testing. We here investigated the potential of plasma steroid hormone profiling by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for the diagnosis of malignancy in adrenocortical tumors.

Design

Retrospective cohort study of prospectively collected EDTA-plasma samples in a single tertiary reference center.

Methods

Steroid hormone profiling by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) in random plasma samples and logistic regression modeling.

Results

Fifteen steroid hormones were quantified in 66 ACAs (29 males; M) and 42 ACC (15 M) plasma samples. Significantly higher abundances in ACC vs ACA were observed for 11-deoxycorticosterone, progesterone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, 11-deoxycortisol, DHEA, DHEAS and estradiol (all P < 0.05). Maximal areas under the curve (AUC) for discrimination between ACA and ACC for single analytes were only 0.76 (estradiol) and 0.77 (progesterone), respectively. Logistic regression modeling enabled the discovery of diagnostic signatures composed of six specific steroids for male and female patients with AUC of 0.95 and 0.94, respectively. Positive predictive values in males and females were 92 and 96%, negative predictive values 90 and 86%, respectively.

Conclusion

This study in a large adrenal tumor patient cohort demonstrates the value of plasma steroid hormone profiling for diagnosis of ACC. Application of LC-MS/MS analysis and of our model may facilitate diagnosis of malignancy in non-expert centers. We propose to continuously evaluate and improve diagnostic accuracy of LC-MS/MS profiling by applying machine-learning algorithms to prospectively obtained steroid hormone profiles.

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

Guido Di Dalmazi, Marcus Quinkler, Timo Deutschbein, Cornelia Prehn, Nada Rayes, Matthias Kroiss, Christina M Berr, Günter Stalla, Martin Fassnacht, Jerzy Adamski, Martin Reincke and Felix Beuschlein

Objective

Endogenous hypercortisolism is a chronic condition associated with severe metabolic disturbances and cardiovascular sequela. The aim of this study was to characterize metabolic alterations in patients with different degrees of hypercortisolism by mass-spectrometry-based targeted plasma metabolomic profiling and correlate the metabolomic profile with clinical and hormonal data.

Design

Cross-sectional study.

Methods

Subjects (n = 149) were classified according to clinical and hormonal characteristics: Cushing’s syndrome (n = 46), adrenocortical adenomas with autonomous cortisol secretion (n = 31) or without hypercortisolism (n = 27). Subjects with suspicion of hypercortisolism, but normal hormonal/imaging testing, served as controls (n = 42). Clinical and hormonal data were retrieved for all patients and targeted metabolomic profiling was performed.

Results

Patients with hypercortisolism showed lower levels of short-/medium-chain acylcarnitines and branched-chain and aromatic amino acids, but higher polyamines levels, in comparison to controls. These alterations were confirmed after excluding diabetic patients. Regression models showed significant correlation between cortisol after dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and 31 metabolites, independently of confounding/contributing factors. Among those, histidine and spermidine were also significantly associated with catabolic signs and symptoms of hypercortisolism. According to an discriminant analysis, the panel of metabolites was able to correctly classify subjects into the main diagnostic categories and to distinguish between subjects with/without altered post-DST cortisol and with/without diabetes in >80% of the cases.

Conclusions

Metabolomic profiling revealed alterations of intermediate metabolism independently associated with the severity of hypercortisolism, consistent with disturbed protein synthesis/catabolism and incomplete β-oxidation, providing evidence for the occurrence of metabolic inflexibility in hypercortisolism.

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.