Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is a common endocrinopathy, frequently caused by a parathyroid adenoma, rarely by a parathyroid carcinoma that lacks effective oncological treatment. As the majority of cases are present in postmenopausal women, oestrogen signalling has been implicated in the tumourigenesis. Oestrogen receptor beta 1 (ERB1) and ERB2 have been recently identified in parathyroid adenomas, the former inducing genes coupled to tumour apoptosis. We applied immunohistochemistry and slide digitalisation to quantify nuclear ERB1 and ERB2 in 172 parathyroid adenomas, atypical adenomas and carcinomas, and ten normal parathyroid glands. All the normal parathyroid glands expressed ERB1 and ERB2. The majority of tumours expressed ERB1 (70.6%) at varying intensities, and ERB2 (96.5%) at strong intensities. Parathyroid carcinomas expressed ERB1 in three out of six cases and ERB2 in five out of six cases. The intensity of tumour nuclear ERB1 staining significantly correlated inversely with tumour weight (P=0.011), and patients whose tumours were classified as ERB1-negative had significantly greater tumour weight as well as higher serum calcium (P=0.002) and parathyroid hormone levels (P=0.003). Additionally, tumour nuclear ERB1 was not expressed differentially with respect to sex or age of the patient. Levels of tumour nuclear ERB2 did not correlate with clinical characteristics. In conclusion, decreased ERB1 immunoreactivity is associated with increased tumour weight in parathyroid adenomas. Given the previously reported correlation with tumour-suppressive signalling, selective oestrogen receptor modulation (SERMs) may play a role in the treatment of parathyroid carcinomas. Future studies of SERMs and oestrogen treatment in PHPT should consider tumour weight as a potential factor in pharmacological responsiveness.
Keywords: Visiopharm; oestrogen; oestrogen receptor beta; parathyroid adenoma; parathyroid carcinoma; primary hyperparathyroidism; selective oestrogen receptor modulators.
© 2015 The authors.