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Brian Hung-Hin Lang, Chung-Yau Lo, Wai-Fan Chan, King-Yin Lam, and Koon-Yat Wan

A number of risk-group stratification or staging systems have been found useful at stratifying patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma into risk groups. Those identified as high risk could be subjected to more aggressive treatment, while those at low risk could be spared of such treatment. However, the best stratification system in patients with follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) remains unclear. Through a comprehensive MEDLINE search from 1965 to 2005, a total of 18 different staging systems were identified in the literature and 14 of them were applicable to 171 patients, with FTC managed at our institution from 1961 to 2001. Cancer-specific survivals (CSS) were calculated by Kaplan–Meier method and were compared by log-rank test. Using Cox proportional hazards analysis, the relative importance of each staging system in determining CSS was calculated by the proportion of variation in survival time explained (PVE). CSS were predicted by 13 out of the 14 staging systems significantly (P < 0.001). The three highest ranked staging systems by PVE were the new American Joint Commitee on Cancer/Union Internationale Centre le Cancer 6th edition, tumour, node, metastases (TNM; 22.4), followed by the Clinical Class (21.2) and the metastases, age, completeness of resection, invasion, size (MACIS; 20.4). In conclusion, 13 out of the 14 presently available staging systems predicted CSS significantly in FTC. When predictability was measured by PVE, the TNM system was found to have the best predictability and thus, should be the stratification system of choice for FTC in the future.

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Urbain Weyemi, Bernard Caillou, Monique Talbot, Rabii Ameziane-El-Hassani, Ludovic Lacroix, Odile Lagent-Chevallier, Abir Al Ghuzlan, Dirk Roos, Jean-Michel Bidart, Alain Virion, Martin Schlumberger, and Corinne Dupuy

NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) belongs to the NOX family that generates reactive oxygen species (ROS). Function and tissue distribution of NOX4 have not yet been entirely clarified. To date, in the thyroid gland, only DUOX1/2 NOX systems have been described. NOX4 mRNA expression, as shown by real-time PCR, was present in normal thyroid tissue, regulated by TSH and significantly increased in differentiated cancer tissues. TSH increased the protein level of NOX4 in human thyroid primary culture and NOX4-dependent ROS generation. NOX4 immunostaining was detected in normal and pathologic thyroid tissues. In normal thyroid tissue, staining was heterogeneous and mostly found in activated columnar thyrocytes but absent in quiescent flat cells. Papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas displayed more homogeneous staining. The p22phox protein that forms a heterodimeric enzyme complex with NOX4 displayed an identical cellular expression pattern and was also positively regulated by TSH. ROS may have various biological effects, depending on the site of production. Intracellular NOX4–p22phox localization suggests a role in cytoplasmic redox signaling, in contrast to the DUOX localization at the apical membrane that corresponds to an extracellular H2O2 production. Increased NOX4–p22phox in cancer might be related to a higher proliferation rate and tumor progression but a role in the development of tumors has to be further studied and established in the future.

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Pedro Weslley Rosario, Gabriela Franco Mourão, Maurício Buzelin Nunes, Marcelo Saldanha Nunes, and Maria Regina Calsolari

Recently, it was proposed that some papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) will no longer be termed ‘cancer’ and are christened as ‘noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features’ (NIFTP). As this is a recent definition, little information is available about NIFTP. The objective of this study was to report the frequency, ultrasonographic appearance, cytology result and long-term evolution of cases of NIFTP seen at our institution. We excluded tumours ≤1 cm. The sample consisted of 129 patients. Sixty-four patients were submitted to total thyroidectomy and 65 to lobectomy. These patients with NIFTP did not receive radioiodine. NIFTP corresponded to 15% of cases diagnosed as PTC >1 cm. An ultrasonographic appearance considered to be of low suspicion for malignancy was common in NIFTP (32.5%), whereas a highly suspicious appearance was uncommon (5%). NIFTP frequently exhibited indeterminate cytology (62%), while malignant cytology was uncommon (4%). The patients were followed up for 12–146 months (median 72 months) after surgery. None of the patients developed structural disease during follow-up. Comparing the concentrations of thyroglobulin (Tg) and anti-Tg antibodies (TgAb) obtained 6–12 months after surgery and in the last assessment, none of the patients exhibited an increase in these markers.

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Myriem Boufraqech, Lisa Zhang, Meenu Jain, Dhaval Patel, Ryan Ellis, Yin Xiong, Mei He, Naris Nilubol, Maria J Merino, and Electron Kebebew

The expression and function of miR-145 in thyroid cancer is unknown. We evaluated the expression and function of miR-145 in thyroid cancer and its potential clinical application as a biomarker. We found that the expression of miR-145 is significantly downregulated in thyroid cancer as compared with normal. Overexpression of miR-145 in thyroid cancer cell lines resulted in: decreased cell proliferation, migration, invasion, VEGF secretion, and E-cadherin expression. miR-145 overexpression also inhibited the PI3K/Akt pathway and directly targeted AKT3. In vivo, miR-145 overexpression decreased tumor growth and metastasis in a xenograft mouse model, and VEGF secretion. miR-145 inhibition in normal primary follicular thyroid cells decreased the expression of thyroid cell differentiation markers. Analysis of indeterminate fine-needle aspiration samples showed miR-145 had a 92% negative predictive value for distinguishing benign from malignant thyroid nodules. Circulating miR-145 levels were significantly higher in patients with thyroid cancer and showed a venous gradient. Serum exosome extractions revealed that miR-145 is secreted. Our findings suggest that miR-145 is a master regulator of thyroid cancer growth, mediates its effect through the PI3K/Akt pathway, is secreted by the thyroid cancer cells, and may serve as an adjunct biomarker for thyroid cancer diagnosis.

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Caterina Tiozzo, Soula Danopoulos, Maria Lavarreda-Pearce, Sheryl Baptista, Radka Varimezova, Denise Al Alam, David Warburton, Rehan Virender, Stijn De Langhe, Antonio Di Cristofano, Saverio Bellusci, and Parviz Minoo

Even though the role of the tyrosine phosphatase Pten as a tumor suppressor gene has been well established in thyroid cancer, its role during thyroid development is still elusive. We therefore targeted Pten deletion in the thyroid epithelium by crossing Pten flox/flox with a newly developed Nkx2.1-cre driver line in the BALB/c and C57BL/6 genetic backgrounds. C57BL/6 homozygous Pten mutant mice died around 2 weeks of age due to tracheal and esophageal compression by a hyperplasic thyroid. By contrast, BALB/c homozygous Pten mutant mice survived up to 2 years, but with a slightly increased thyroid volume. Characterization of the thyroid glands from C57BL/6 homozygous Pten mutant mice at postnatal day 14 (PN14) showed abnormally enlarged tissue with areas of cellular hyperplasia, disruption of the normal architecture, and follicular degeneration. In addition, differing degrees of hypothyroidism, thyroxine (T4) decrease, and thyroid-stimulating hormone elevation between the strains in the mutants and the heterozygous mutant were detected at PN14. Finally, C57BL/6 heterozygous Pten mutant mice developed thyroid tumors after 2 years of age. Our results indicate that Pten has a pivotal role in thyroid development and its deletion results in thyroid tumor formation, with the timing and severity of the tumor depending on the particular genetic background.

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Xinying Li, Zhiming Wang, Jianming Liu, Cane Tang, Chaojun Duan, and Cui Li

The fusion gene encoding the thyroid-specific transcription factor PAX8 and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ (PPARG)) (designated as the PPFP gene) is oncogenic and implicated in the development of follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC). The effects of PPFP transfection on the biological characteristics of Nthy-ori 3-1 cells were studied by MTT assay, colony formation, soft-agar colony formation, and scratch wound-healing assays as well as by flow cytometry. Furthermore, the differentially expressed proteins were analyzed on 2-DE maps and identified by MALDI-TOF-MS. Validation of five identified proteins (prohibitin, galectin-1, cytokeratin 8 (CK8), CK19, and HSP27) was determined by western blot analysis. PPFP not only significantly increased the viability, proliferation, and mobility of the Nthy-ori 3-1 cells but also markedly inhibited cellular apoptosis. Twenty-eight differentially expressed proteins were identified, among which 19 proteins were upregulated and nine proteins were downregulated in Nthy-ori 3-1PPFP (Nthy-ori 3-1 cells transfected with PPFP). The western blot results, which were consistent with the proteome analysis results, showed that prohibitin was downregulated, whereas galectin-1, CK8, CK19, and HSP27 were upregulated in Nthy-ori 3-1PPFP. Our results suggest that PPFP plays an important role in malignant thyroid transformation. Proteomic analysis of the differentially expressed proteins in PPFP-transfected cells provides important information for further study of the carcinogenic mechanism of PPFP in FTCs.

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Devora Champa, Marika A Russo, Xiao-Hui Liao, Samuel Refetoff, Ronald A Ghossein, and Antonio Di Cristofano

Poorly differentiated tumors of the thyroid gland (PDTC) are generally characterized by a poor prognosis due to their resistance to available therapeutic approaches. The relative rarity of these tumors is a major obstacle to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor aggressiveness and drug resistance, and consequently to the development of novel therapies. By simultaneously activating Kras and deleting p53 (Trp53) in thyroid follicular cells, we have generated a novel mouse model that develops papillary thyroid cancer invariably progressing to PDTC. In several cases, tumors further progress to anaplastic carcinomas. The poorly differentiated tumors are morphologically and functionally similar to their human counterparts and depend on MEK/ERK signaling for proliferation. Using primary carcinomas as well as carcinoma-derived cell lines, we also demonstrate that these tumors are intrinsically resistant to apoptosis due to high levels of expression of the Bcl2 family members, Bcl2a1 (Bcl2a1a) and Mcl1, and can be effectively targeted by Obatoclax, a small-molecule pan-inhibitor of the Bcl2 family. Furthermore, we show that Bcl2 family inhibition synergizes with MEK inhibition as well as with doxorubicin in inducing cell death. Thus, our studies in a novel, relevant mouse model have uncovered a promising druggable feature of aggressive thyroid cancers.

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Shih-Ping Cheng, Chien-Liang Liu, Ming-Jen Chen, Ming-Nan Chien, Ching-Hsiang Leung, Chi-Hsin Lin, Yi-Chiung Hsu, and Jie-Jen Lee

CD74, the invariant chain of major histocompatibility complex class II, is also a receptor for macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). CD74 and MIF have been associated with tumor progression and metastasis in hematologic and solid tumors. In this study, we found that 60 and 65% of papillary thyroid cancers were positive for CD74 and MIF immunohistochemical staining respectively. Anaplastic thyroid cancer was negative for MIF, but mostly positive for CD74 expression. Normal thyroid tissue and follicular adenomas were negative for CD74 expression. CD74 expression in papillary thyroid cancer was associated with larger tumor size (P=0.043), extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.021), advanced TNM stage (P=0.006), and higher MACIS score (P=0.026). No clinicopathological parameter was associated with MIF expression. Treatment with anti-CD74 antibody in thyroid cancer cells inhibited cell growth, colony formation, cell migration and invasion, and vascular endothelial growth factor secretion. In contrast, treatment with recombinant MIF induced an increase in cell invasion. Anti-CD74 treatment reduced AKT phosphorylation and stimulated AMPK activation. Our findings suggest that CD74 overexpression in thyroid cancer is associated with advanced tumor stage and may serve as a therapeutic target.

Free access

Rabii Ameziane El Hassani, Camille Buffet, Sophie Leboulleux, and Corinne Dupuy

At physiological concentrations, reactive oxygen species (ROS), including superoxide anions and H2O2, are considered as second messengers that play key roles in cellular functions, such as proliferation, gene expression, host defence and hormone synthesis. However, when they are at supraphysiological levels, ROS are considered potent DNA-damaging agents. Their increase induces oxidative stress, which can initiate and maintain genomic instability. The thyroid gland represents a good model for studying the impact of oxidative stress on genomic instability. Indeed, one particularity of this organ is that follicular thyroid cells synthesise thyroid hormones through a complex mechanism that requires H2O2. Because of their detection in thyroid adenomas and in early cell transformation, both oxidative stress and DNA damage are believed to be neoplasia-preceding events in thyroid cells. Oxidative DNA damage is, in addition, detected in the advanced stages of thyroid cancer, suggesting that oxidative lesions of DNA also contribute to the maintenance of genomic instability during the subsequent phases of tumourigenesis. Finally, ionizing radiation and the mutation of oncogenes, such as RAS and BRAF, play a key role in thyroid carcinogenesis through separate and unique mechanisms: they upregulate the expression of two distinct ‘professional’ ROS-generating systems, the NADPH oxidases DUOX1 and NOX4, which cause DNA damage that may promote chromosomal instability, tumourigenesis and dedifferentiation.

Free access

Susanne Singer, Susan Jordan, Laura D Locati, Monica Pinto, Iwona M Tomaszewska, Cláudia Araújo, Eva Hammerlid, E Vidhubala, Olga Husson, Naomi Kiyota, Christine Brannan, Dina Salem, Eva M Gamper, Juan Ignacio Arraras, Georgios Ioannidis, Guy Andry, Johanna Inhestern, Vincent Grégoire, Lisa Licitra, and on behalf of the EORTC Quality of Life Group, the EORTC Head and Neck Cancer Group, and the EORTC Endocrine Task Force

The purpose of the study was to pilot-test a questionnaire measuring health-related quality of life (QoL) in thyroid cancer patients to be used with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) core questionnaire EORTC QLQ-C30. A provisional questionnaire with 47 items was administered to patients treated for thyroid cancer within the last 2 years. Patients were interviewed about time and help needed to complete the questionnaire, and whether they found the items understandable, confusing or annoying. Items were kept in the questionnaire if they fulfilled pre-defined criteria: relevant to the patients, easy to understand, not confusing, few missing values, neither floor nor ceiling effects, and high variance. A total of 182 thyroid cancer patients in 15 countries participated (n = 115 with papillary, n = 31 with follicular, n = 22 with medullary, n = 6 with anaplastic, and n = 8 with other types of thyroid cancer). Sixty-six percent of the patients needed 15 min or less to complete the questionnaire. Of the 47 items, 31 fulfilled the predefined criteria and were kept unchanged, 14 were removed, and 2 were changed. Shoulder dysfunction was mentioned by 5 patients as missing and an item covering this issue was added. To conclude, the EORTC quality of life module for thyroid cancer (EORTC QLQ-THY34) is ready for the final validation phase IV.