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Projects on thyroid and pituitary distinguished by SPEDM

i3S researchers were recently recognized by the Portuguese Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (SPEDM) for their work in the areas of the thyroid and pituitary. The prizes were awarded during the Portuguese Congress of Endocrinology, which took place between the 29th and 31th of January this year.

The project “Molecular Characterization of Corticotroph Adenomas in a Portuguese Cohort” was proposed by researcher Luís Miguel Cardoso and was awarded a SPEDM/HRA Pharma Iberia Scholarship in the area of Cushing’s Syndrome, to the amount of ten thousand euros. The team, which also includes researchers Paula Soares, Leonor Gomes, and Isabel Paiva, intends to identify biomolecular factors that allow a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease, make the clinical decision process more effective and individualized, as well as identify new therapeutic opportunities.

Cushing's disease (CD) is characterized in most cases by the presence of small tumors (microadenomas) in the pituitary gland which result in the excessive production of the hormone ACTH which in turn leads to an exaggerated production of cortisol by the adrenal gland. These patients, explains Luís Miguel Cardoso, even after surgical treatment “have a high rate of recurrence, leading to several comorbidities and an increased risk of death”. Mainly because medical treatment has limited effectiveness and the biomolecular mechanisms of the disease remain largely unclear. “Our goal is to investigate the prevalence of somatic mutations in a Portuguese cohort of CD and to evaluate associations with biological, biochemical, clinical, radiological, histological and therapeutic variables”, said the researcher.

The project presented by researcher Ana Sofia Macedo, for its part, received a research grant from SPEDM for seven thousand and five hundred euros. Entitled “Fishing endocrine disruptors contribution to cancer”, this work focuses on the influence of Endocrine Disruptors (EDCs) on thyroid function and the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Endocrine disruptors, explains Ana Sofia Macedo, “are chemicals released to the environment and that can mimic the effect of hormones or interfere with hormonal regulation. An increasing number of cancer cases have been linked to several environmental factors, including lifelong exposure to these disruptors”.

The team of researchers, composed of Ana Sofia Macedo, Elisabete Teixeira, Miguel Melo and Paula Soares, will use a transgenic model of zebrafish with an oncogenic mutation in the thyroid to test the influence of three compounds that are already known to cause endocrine disruption. “Our hypothesis is that in the context of an oncogenic mutation the contaminating exposure to environmental factors capable of interfering with the endocrine system (such as endocrine disruptors) may induce or promote the development of thyroid neoplasms”, explains Ana Sofia Macedo.

Paula Soares, leader of the Cancer Signaling and Metabolism group to which the researchers belong, says that “these grants are an important recognition of the group’s work in endocrine pathology” and highlights the “relevant role of the Portuguese Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (SPEDM) in supporting research in this area”.