The Society for Endocrinology’s Journal Awards recognise authors for “excellence in both research focus and practice and their contribution to the wider biomedical field”. Each year, papers from the Society’s journals are reviewed by the Editorial board and up to five awards are presented at the Society for Endocrinology BES conference, which, this year, will take place in Harrogate in November.
A paper by Ludwig Oxford’s Luise Eckardt and Maria Prange-Barczynska from Dr Tammie Bishop’s and Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe’s laboratories won the best Endocrine-Related Cancer article. Their paper set out to better understand the role of genetic activation of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway in tumours of the autonomic paraganglia (the adrenal medulla and extra-adrenal paraganglia including the carotid body), collectively known as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs).
HIF is commonly activated in cancer but genetic mutations of HIF pathway components are rare in most forms of tumours. By contrast, almost half of PPGLs contain germline mutations, with mutations in the HIF pathway that result in the activation of HIF being particularly common.
The Ludwig Oxford researchers’ study suggests that activation of HIF results in a shift towards an immature population of a key cell type in the adrenal medulla during development to pre-dispose to subsequent PPGL formation and that this underlies the heritability of these tumours. This work has implications for clinical strategies to prevent or treat these rare cancers and suggests that treatment with the clinically licensed HIF-2alpha inhibitor Belzutifan should be targeted to early developmental stages before adulthood.