Advances in understanding the molecular underpinnings of adrenocortical tumors

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Purpose of review

Adrenocortical tumors are divided into benign adenomas and malignant carcinomas. The former is relatively common and carries a favorable prognosis, whereas the latter is rare and frequently presents at an advanced stage, with poor outcomes. Advances in next-generation sequencing, genome analysis, and bioinformatics have allowed for high-throughput molecular characterization of adrenal tumorigenesis.

Recent findings

Although recent genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic studies in large tumor cohorts have confirmed the central roles of aberrant Wnt/ß-catenin signaling, constitutive protein kinase A pathway activation, cell cycle dysregulation, and ion channelopathies in adrenal tumorigenesis, these studies also revealed novel signature events underlying malignant differentiation of adrenocortical carcinomas.


Recent advances in understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying adrenocortical tumorigenesis provide new molecular diagnostic and prognostic tools and opportunities for novel therapeutic approaches. These findings are particularly important in adrenocortical carcinoma, for which current treatment options are limited.

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