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Pablo Valderrabano, Laila Khazai, Marino E Leon, Zachary J Thompson, Zhenjun Ma, Christine H Chung, Julie E Hallanger-Johnson, Kristen J Otto, Kara D Rogers, Barbara A Centeno, and Bryan McIver

ThyroSeq v2 claims high positive (PPV) and negative (NPV) predictive values in a wide range of pretest risks of malignancy in indeterminate thyroid nodules (ITNs) (categories B-III and B-IV of the Bethesda system). We evaluated ThyroSeq v2 performance in a cohort of patients with ITNs seen at our Academic Cancer Center from September 2014 to April 2016, in light of the new diagnostic criteria for non-invasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP). Our study included 182 patients (76% female) with 190 ITNs consecutively tested with ThyroSeq v2. Patient treatment followed our institutional thyroid nodule clinical pathway. Histologies of nodules with follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma or NIFTP diagnoses were reviewed, with reviewers blinded to molecular results. ThyroSeq v2 performance was calculated in nodules with histological confirmation. We identified a mutation in 24% (n = 45) of the nodules. Mutations in RAS were the most prevalent (n = 21), but the positive predictive value of this mutation was much lower (31%) than that in prior reports. In 102 resected ITNs, ThyroSeq v2 performance was as follows: sensitivity 70% (46–88), specificity 77% (66–85), PPV 42% (25–61) and NPV 91% (82–97). The performance in B-IV nodules was significantly better than that in B-III nodules (area under the curve 0.84 vs 0.57, respectively; P = 0.03), where it was uninformative. Further studies evaluating ThyroSeq v2 performance are needed, particularly in B-III.

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Ornella Affinito, Paolo Salerno, Alfonso D’Alessio, Mariella Cuomo, Ermanno Florio, Francesca Carlomagno, Agnese Proietti, Riccardo Giannini, Fulvio Basolo, Lorenzo Chiariotti, Sergio Cocozza, and Massimo Santoro

Molecular differentiation between benign (follicular thyroid adenoma (FTA)) and malignant (follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC)) thyroid neoplasms is challenging. Here, we explored the genome-wide DNA methylation profile of FTA (n.10) and FTC (n.11) compared to normal thyroid (NT) (n.7) tissues. FTC featured 3564 differentially methylated CpGs (DMCpG), most (84%) of them hypermethylated, with respect to normal controls. At the principal component analysis (PCA), the methylation profile of FTA occupied an intermediate position between FTC and normal tissue. A large fraction (n. 2385) of FTC-associated DMCpG was related (intragenic or within 1500 bp from the transcription start site) to annotated genes (n. 1786). FTC-hypermethylated genes were enriched for targets of the Polycomb transcriptional repressor complex and the specific histone H3 marks (H3K4me2/me3-H3K27me3) found in chromatin domains known as ‘bivalent’. Transcriptome profiling by RNAseq showed that 7.9% of the DMCpGs-associated genes were differentially expressed in FTC compared to NT, suggesting that altered DNA methylation may contribute to their altered expression. Overall, this study suggests that perturbed DNA methylation, in particular hypermethylation, is a component of the molecular mechanisms leading to the formation of FTC and that DNA methylation profiling may help differentiating FTCs from their benign counterpart.

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Debora Degl'Innocenti, Paola Romeo, Eva Tarantino, Marialuisa Sensi, Giuliana Cassinelli, Veronica Catalano, Cinzia Lanzi, Federica Perrone, Silvana Pilotti, Ettore Seregni, Marco A Pierotti, Angela Greco, and Maria Grazia Borrello

Thyroid carcinomas derived from follicular cells comprise papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), follicular thyroid carcinoma, poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma (PDTC) and undifferentiated anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). PTC, the most frequent thyroid carcinoma histotype, is associated with gene rearrangements that generate RET/PTC and TRK oncogenes and with BRAF-V600E and RAS gene mutations. These last two genetic lesions are also present in a fraction of PDTCs. The ERK1/2 pathway, downstream of the known oncogenes activated in PTC, has a central role in thyroid carcinogenesis. In this study, we demonstrate that the BRAF-V600E, RET/PTC, and TRK oncogenes upregulate the ERK1/2 pathway's attenuator cytoplasmic dual-phase phosphatase DUSP6/MKP3 in thyroid cells. We also show DUSP6 overexpression at the mRNA and protein levels in all the analysed PTC cell lines. Furthermore, DUSP6 mRNA was significantly higher in PTC and PDTC in comparison with normal thyroid tissues both in expression profile datasets and in patients' surgical samples analysed by real-time RT-PCR. Immunohistochemical and western blot analyses showed that DUSP6 was also overexpressed at the protein level in most PTC and PDTC surgical samples tested, but not in ATC, and revealed a positive correlation trend with ERK1/2 pathway activation. Finally, DUSP6 silencing reduced the neoplastic properties of four PTC cell lines, thus suggesting that DUSP6 may have a pro-tumorigenic role in thyroid carcinogenesis.

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Pierlorenzo Pallante, Rosa Visone, Carlo Maria Croce, and Alfredo Fusco

Carcinoma of the thyroid gland is an uncommon cancer, but one of the most frequent malignancies of the endocrine system. Most thyroid cancers are derived from the follicular cells. Follicular carcinoma is considered more malignant than papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), and anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is one of the most lethal human cancers. Even though several genetic lesions have been already described in human thyroid cancer, particularly in the papillary histotype, the mechanisms underlying the development of these neoplasias are still far from being completely elucidated. Some years ago, several studies were undertaken to analyze the expression of microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) in thyroid carcinoma to evaluate a possible role of their deregulation in the process of carcinogenesis. These studies showed an aberrant microRNA expression profile that distinguishes unequivocally among PTC, ATC, and normal thyroid tissue. Here, other than summarizing the current findings on microRNA expression in human thyroid carcinomas, we discuss the mechanisms by which microRNA deregulation may play a role in thyroid carcinogenesis, and the possible use of microRNA knowledge in the diagnosis and therapy of thyroid neoplasms.

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Salvatore Ulisse, Enke Baldini, Matteo Toller, Jean-Guy Delcros, Aurélie Guého, Francesco Curcio, Enrico De Antoni, Laura Giacomelli, Francesco S Ambesi-Impiombato, Sarah Bocchini, Massimino D’Armiento, and Yannick Arlot-Bonnemains

Aurora-A kinase has recently been shown to be deregulated in thyroid cancer cells and tissues. Among the Aurora-A substrates identified, transforming acidic coiled-coil (TACC3), a member of the TACC family, plays an important role in cell cycle progression and alterations of its expression occur in different cancer tissues. In this study, we demonstrated the expression of the TACC3 gene in normal human thyroid cells (HTU5), and its modulation at both mRNA and protein levels during cell cycle. Its expression was found, with respect to HTU5 cells, unchanged in cells derived from a benign thyroid follicular tumor (HTU42), and significantly reduced in cell lines derived from follicular (FTC-133), papillary (B-CPAP), and anaplastic thyroid carcinomas (CAL-62 and 8305C). Moreover, in 16 differentiated thyroid cancer tissues, TACC3 mRNA levels were found, with respect to normal matched tissues, reduced by twofold in 56% of cases and increased by twofold in 44% of cases. In the same tissues, a correlation between the expression of the TACC3 and Aurora-A mRNAs was observed. TACC3 and Aurora-A interact in vivo in thyroid cells and both proteins localized onto the mitotic structure of thyroid cells. Finally, TACC3 localization on spindle microtubule was no more observed following the inhibition of Aurora kinase activity by VX-680. We propose that Aurora-A and TACC3 interaction is important to control the mitotic spindle organization required for proper chromosome segregation.

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Maria Trovato, Alessandra Ulivieri, Roberto Dominici, Rosaria Maddalena Ruggeri, Enrica Vitarelli, Salvatore Benvenga, Gaetano Barresi, Francesco Trimarchi, Ercole Brunetti, Aldo Vecchione, Mario Andreoli, and Salvatore Sciacchitano

A careful pathological examination often reveals the presence of different lesions at various stages of tumor progression and invasion, even in those thyroid glands presenting with solitary nodules. Each thyroid lesion is composed of many different cell types, reflecting the marked heterogeneity of normal thyroid tissue. Among the different chromosome regions altered in thyroid tumors, 7q21 appears to be specifically involved in malignant tumors, especially of the follicular type. This study was conducted to analyze the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) pattern at 7q21 in pure populations of cells from each single lesion harbored in surgically removed thyroid glands, and to evaluate its clinical significance. One hundred and forty-two thyroid glands were examined, all showing, as a common trait, a goitrous appearance associated with one single lesion in 114 cases and with more than one in the remaining 28 cases. A total number of 318 lesions was analyzed, consisting of 142 goiters (TG), 48 hyperplasias (TH), 80 adenomas (TA) and 48 carcinomas (TC). Five different types of cells were isolated by laser capture microdissection from each lesion. DNA was analyzed by PCR and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in search of LOH affecting five microsatellite markers, D7S660, D7S630, D7S492, D7S657, and D7S689. We detected LOH at 7q21 not only in thyroid malignant tumors but also in benign lesions. Allelic loss occurred exclusively in dark nucleus and eosinophilic cytoplasm cells, commonly observed in the follicular type of lesions. In these types of lesions allelic loss frequency increases along with neoplastic transformation (9% in TG, 41% in TH, 68% in TA and 100% in TC), and is directly correlated with thyroid gland volume as well as with the presence of multiple lesions. The highest LOH rate was observed for D7S492, indicating that the recurrent region of deletion was localized at the corresponding genetic locus at 7q21.2, in the same position where the common fragile site FRA7E was previously mapped. LOH at this locus represents an early event in the development of follicular TC and is associated with intense growth of thyroid glands.

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Dang Vu-Phan, Vladimir Grachtchouk, Jingcheng Yu, Lesley A Colby, Max S Wicha, and Ronald J Koenig

A chromosomal translocation results in the production of a paired box 8–peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PAX8–PPARG) fusion protein (PPFP) in ∼35% of follicular thyroid carcinomas. To examine the role of PPFP in thyroid oncogenesis, the fusion protein was stably expressed in the non-transformed rat thyroid cell line PCCL3. PPFP conferred on PCCL3 cells the ability to invade through Matrigel and to form colonies in anchorage-independent conditions. PPFP also increased the fraction of cells with Wnt/TCF-responsive green fluorescent protein reporter gene expression. This Wnt/TCF-activated population was enriched for colony-forming and invading cells. These actions of PPFP required a functional PPARG DNA binding domain (DBD) within PPFP and were further stimulated by PPARG agonists. These data indicate that PPFP, through its PPARG DBD, induces Wnt/TCF pathway activation in a subpopulation of cells, and these cells have properties of cellular transformation including increased invasiveness and anchorage-independent growth.

Free access

D Bonofiglio, H Qi, S Gabriele, S Catalano, S Aquila, M Belmonte, and S Andò

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) has been demonstrated to be anti-neoplastic against various human tumors. The aim of this study was to delineate the molecular mechanism underlying PPARγ ligand rosiglitazone (BRL) antiproliferative effects in follicular WRO and anaplastic FRO human thyroid carcinoma cells. BRL upregulated the p21Cip1/WAF1 levels in the two thyroid cancer cells, while did not modify the p53 protein content. Different evidences indicate that the p21Cip1/WAF1 upregulation by BRL requires a functional PPARγ, since it was reversed by silencing PPARγ and pretreatment with GW9662, an irreversible PPARγ antagonist. Transient transfection assays showed that BRL triggered the transcriptional activity of p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter gene in a p53-independent way, being a p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter construct deleted in the p53 sites still activated by BRL. The Sp1 inhibitor mithramycin silenced the p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter activity suggesting an important role of Sp1 in mediating BRL activation. The electrophoretic mobility shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays evidenced a functional interaction between PPARγ and Sp1 in regulating p21Cip1/WAF1. Intriguingly, ChIP analysis revealed in the p21Cip1/WAF1 gene promoter an increased recruitment of the RNA Pol II associated with an increased histone H3 acetylation and a reduced H3 methylation. The biological event, consistent with PPARγ-induced WRO and FRO cell growth inhibition, was reversed by p21Cip1/WAF1 antisense oligonucleotides and was confirmed by increasing the PPARγ expression, suggesting a crucial role exerted by p21Cip1/WAF1 in PPARγ action. Our results further candidate BRL as a potential agent able to inhibit tumor progression of follicular and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma.

Free access

Jaume Capdevila, Lara Iglesias, Irene Halperin, Ángel Segura, Javier Martínez-Trufero, Maria Ángeles Vaz, Jesús Corral, Gabriel Obiols, Enrique Grande, Juan Jose Grau, and Josep Tabernero

Although thyroid cancer usually has an excellent prognosis, few therapeutic options are available in the refractory setting. Based on the recent results of phase II studies with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, we designed a retrospective analysis of patients with metastatic thyroid cancer treated with sorafenib in seven Spanish referral centers. Consecutive patients with progressive metastatic thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic) not suitable for curative surgery, radioactive-iodine therapy, or radiotherapy were treated with sorafenib 400 mg twice a day. The primary end point was objective response rate (RR). Secondary end points included toxicity, median progression-free survival (mPFS), median overall survival (mOS), and correlation between tumor marker levels (thyroglobulin, calcitonin, and carcinoembryonic antigen) and efficacy. Between June 2006 and January 2010, 34 patients were included in the study. Sixteen patients presented differentiated thyroid carcinomas (DTC) of which seven (21%) were papillary, nine (26%) follicular, 15 (44%) medullary (MTC), and three (9%) were anaplastic (ATC). Eleven (32%) patients achieved partial response and 14 (41%) had stable disease beyond 6 months. Regarding histological subtype, RRs were 47% (seven of 15) for MTC, 19% (three of 16) for DTC, and 33% (one of three) for ATC. With a median follow-up of 11.5 months, mPFS were 13.5, 10.5, and 4.4 months for DTC, MTC, and ATC respectively. Tumor markers were evaluated in 22 patients, and a statistically significant association was observed between RR and decrease in tumor marker levels >50% (P=0.033). In this retrospective trial, sorafenib showed antitumor efficacy in all histological subtypes of thyroid cancer, warranting further development in this setting.

Free access

Paola Caria, Tinuccia Dettori, Daniela V Frau, Angela Borghero, Antonello Cappai, Alessia Riola, Maria L Lai, Francesco Boi, Piergiorgio Calò, Angelo Nicolosi, Stefano Mariotti, and Roberta Vanni

RET/PTC rearrangement and BRAF V600E mutation are the two prevalent molecular alterations associated with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), and their identification is increasingly being used as an adjunct to cytology in diagnosing PTC. However, there are caveats associated with the use of the molecular approach in fine-needle aspiration (FNA), particularly for RET/PTC, that should be taken into consideration. It has been claimed that a clonal or sporadic presence of this abnormality in follicular cells can distinguish between malignant and benign nodules. Nevertheless, the most commonly used PCR-based techniques lack the capacity to quantify the number of abnormal cells. Because fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is the most sensitive method for detecting gene rearrangement in a single cell, we compared results from FISH and conventional RT-PCR obtained in FNA of a large cohort of consecutive patients with suspicious nodules and investigated the feasibility of setting a FISH-FNA threshold capable of distinguishing non-clonal from clonal molecular events. For this purpose, a home brew break-apart probe, able to recognize the physical breakage of RET, was designed. While a ≥3% FISH signal for broken RET was sufficient to distinguish nodules with abnormal follicular cells, only samples with a ≥6.8% break-apart FISH signal also exhibited positive RT-PCR results. On histological analysis, all nodules meeting the ≥6.8% threshold proved to be malignant. These data corroborate the power of FISH when compared with RT-PCR in quantifying the presence of RET/PTC in FNA and validate the RT-PCR efficiency in detecting clonal RET/PTC alterations.