The molecular basis of adrenocortical cancer

Cancer Genet. 2012 Apr;205(4):131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cancergen.2012.02.009.


Adrenocortical tumors (ACTs) are common, and most are benign adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs). Malignant adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare tumor type and is observed at the rate of one or two cases per million annually. ACTs are classified as either ACAs or ACCs by histopathologic methods that are based on nine Weiss scoring criteria, including the nuclear grade, mitotic rate, presence of necrosis, and others. In this review, we describe the findings of studies that have examined the molecular basis of ACTs, and we compare transcriptome analysis with other diagnostic approaches. ACTs are occasionally difficult to classify. Therefore, molecular techniques, such as microarray analysis, have recently been applied to overcome some of these diagnostic problems. We also discuss the likelihood of the diagnosis and discernment between ACAs and ACCs based on the molecular tests. To show the recent progress in understanding the etiology of ACTs, we highlight the relationship between genetic analysis and transcriptome analysis. We attempt to understand the role of abnormal cell growth and steroid hormone secretion. Genetic and transcriptome analyses have improved our understanding of ACTs considerably, yet many unanswered questions remain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Adrenal Glands / pathology
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma* / diagnosis
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma* / genetics
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma* / pathology
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma* / diagnosis
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma* / genetics
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma* / pathology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / urine
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods
  • Survival Rate
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones