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Branca M Cavaco, Pedro F Batista, Carmo Martins, Ana Banito, Francisco do Rosário, Edward Limbert, Luís G Sobrinho, and Valeriano Leite

Linkage analysis has identified four familial non-medullary thyroid carcinoma (FNMTC) susceptibility loci: fPTC/PRN (1p13.2-1q22), NMTC1 (2q21), MNG1 (14q32) and TCO (19p13.2). To date, there is no evidence for the involvement of genes from the RAS/RAF signalling pathway in FNMTC. The aim of our study was to evaluate the role of the four susceptibility loci, and RAS/RAF signalling pathway genes, in FNMTC. In total, 8 FNMTC families, and 27 thyroid lesions from family members (22 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs): 11 classic, 10 of the follicular variant and 1 of the mixed variant; 4 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTAs) and 1 nodular goitre (NG)), were evaluated for the involvement of the four susceptibility regions, using linkage and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) analyses. BRAF and H-, N- and K-RAS mutations were also screened in the 27 lesions and patients. Linkage analysis in seven informative families showed no evidence for the involvement of any of the four candidate regions, supporting a genetic heterogeneity for FNMTC. Twenty tumours (74%), of which 18 were PTCs, showed no LOH at the four susceptibility loci. The remaining seven tumours (four PTCs, two FTAs and one NG) showed variable patterns of LOH. Fourteen tumours (52%) had somatic mutations: BRAF-V600E mutation was observed in 9 out of the 22 PTCs (41%); and H-RAS and N-RAS mutations were detected in 5 out of the 22 PTCs (23%). Our data suggest that the four candidate regions are not frequently involved in FNMTC and that the somatic activation of BRAF and RAS plays a role in FNMTC tumourigenesis.

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Natassia E Bufalo, Janaina L Leite, Ana C T Guilhen, Elaine C Morari, Fabiana Granja, Ligia V M Assumpcao, and Laura S Ward

In contrast to most human malignancies, epidemiologic studies have frequently reported a reduced risk of differentiated thyroid cancer in tobacco consumers. Cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) gene variants may be related to an increased capacity to activate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, producing highly reactive electrophilic intermediates that might damage DNA. Hence, the germline inheritance of a wild-type CYP1A1 gene may decrease the susceptibility for thyroid cancer. The present study was designed to investigate CYP1A1 (m1 and m2) role in thyroid tumorigenesis and its connection with GSTM1, GSTT1, GSTP1, GSTO1, and codon 72 of p53 genotypes. A total of 248 patients with thyroid nodules, including 67 benign goiters, 13 follicular adenomas, 136 papillary carcinomas, and 32 follicular carcinomas, and 277 controls with similar ethnic backgrounds were interviewed on their lifetime dietary and occupational histories, smoking habit, previous diseases, and other anamnestic data. DNA was extracted from a blood sample and submitted to PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism assays. The wild-type CYP1A1m1 genotype was more frequent among papillary carcinoma patients (74.26%) than in the control population (62.45%; P = 0.0147), reducing the risk for this type of cancer (odds ratio = 0.564; 95% confidence interval = 0.357–0.894). A multiple logistic regression analysis showed an inverse correlation between cigarette smoking (P = 0.0385) and CYP1A1 germline inheritance (P = 0.0237) with the susceptibility to papillary carcinomas. We were not able to find any correlation between smoking, clinical features, parameters of aggressiveness at diagnosis or during follow-up, and any of the GST or CYP genotypes considered separately or in different combinations. We suggest that CYP1A1 genotype might be associated with the reported reduced risk to papillary carcinomas among smokers.

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Stefan Karger, Carl Weidinger, Kerstin Krause, Sien-Yi Sheu, Thomas Aigner, Oliver Gimm, Kurt-Werner Schmid, Henning Dralle, and Dagmar Fuhrer

The forkhead box transcription factor FOXO3a has recently been identified as central mediator of the cellular response to oxidative stress inducing cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. The aim of our study was to investigate the regulation of FOXO3a in the thyroid and to determine whether alterations in FOXO3a activity occur in thyroid carcinogenesis. In vitro, we demonstrate that FOXO3a activity is negatively regulated by the PI3K/Akt cascade promoting increased phosphorylation and cytoplasmatic accumulation of FOXO3a with decreased transcription of the target genes p27kip (CDKN1B) and Bim (BCL2L11), but increased expression of GADD45A. By contrast, we show that H2O2 exposure activates FOXO3a in thyrocytes with JNK (MAPK8)-mediated nuclear accumulation of FOXO3a and increased expression of the cell cycle arrest genes p27kip and GADD45A. In vivo, we observed a marked cytoplasmatic accumulation of FOXO3a in differentiated thyroid cancers versus an exclusive nuclear accumulation in follicular adenoma and normal thyroid tissue. Moreover, this cytosolic accumulation of FOXO3a correlated with an increased phospho-Akt expression in thyroid malignancies and was accompanied by decreased expression of the FOXO targets p27kip and Bim and an increase in GADD45A mRNA expression in the thyroid cancers. Our data suggest FOXO3a as a novel player of cellular stress response in the thyroid, mediating the thyrocyte's fate either to survive or to undergo apoptosis. Furthermore, PI3K-dependent FOXO3a inactivation may be a novel pathomechanism for the escape from apoptosis in thyroid cancer cells, in particular in follicular thyroid carcinoma.

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Stéphanie Durand, Carole Ferraro-Peyret, Mireille Joufre, Annie Chave, Françoise Borson-Chazot, Samia Selmi-Ruby, and Bernard Rousset

About 60–70% of papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) present a BRAF T1799A gene mutation or a rearrangement of RET gene (RET/PTC). In this study, we examined whether PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation and without RET/PTC rearrangement named PTC-ga(−) were distinguishable from PTC-ga(+) (with one or the other gene alteration) on the basis of gene expression characteristics. We analyzed the mutational state of 116 PTC and we compared gene expression profiles of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−) from data of a 200 gene macroarray and quantitative PCR. Seventy five PTC were PTC-ga(+) and 41 were PTC-ga(−). Unsupervised analyses of macroarray data by hierarchical clustering led to a complete segregation of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−). In a series of 42 genes previously recognized as PTC ‘marker’ genes, 22 were found to be expressed at a comparable level in PTC-ga(−) and normal tissue. Thyroid-specific genes, TPO, TG, DIO1, and DIO2 were under-expressed in PTC-ga(+) but expressed at a normal level in PTC-ga(−). A few genes including DUOX1 and DUOX2 were selectively dys-regulated in PTC-ga(−). Tumor grade of PTC-ga(−) was lower than that of PTC-ga(+). There was a strong association between the mutational state and histiotype of PTC; 81% of PTC follicular variants were corresponded to PTC-ga(−), whereas 84% of PTC of classical form were PTC-ga(+). In conclusion, we show that PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation or RET/PTC rearrangement, mainly corresponding to follicular variants, maintain a thyroid differentiation expression level close to that of normal tissue and should be of better prognosis than PTC with one or the other gene alteration.

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Kirk Jensen, Aneeta Patel, Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, Andrew Bauer, and Vasyl Vasko

Resistance to anoikis (matrix deprivation-induced apoptosis) is a critical component of the metastatic cascade. Molecular mechanisms underlying resistance to anoikis have not been reported in thyroid cancer cells. For an in vitro model of anoikis, we cultured follicular, papillary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer cell lines on poly-HEMA-treated low-adherent plates. We also performed immunohistochemical analysis of human cancer cells that had infiltrated blood and/or lymphatic vessels. Matrix deprivation was associated with establishment of contacts between floating thyroid cancer cells and formation of multi-cellular spheroids. This process was associated with activation of gap junctional transfer. Increased expression of the gap junction molecule Connexin43 was found in papillary and anaplastic cancer cells forming spheroids. All non-adherent cancer cells showed a lower proliferation rate compared with adherent cells but were more resistant to serum deprivation. AKT was constitutively activated in cancer cells forming spheroids. Inhibition of gap junctional transfer through Connexin43 silencing, or by treatment with the gap junction disruptor carbenoxolone, resulted in loss of pAKT and induction of apoptosis in a cell-type-specific manner. In human thyroid tissue, cancer cells that had infiltrated blood vessels showed morphological similarity to cancer cells forming spheroids in vitro. Intra-vascular cancer cells demonstrated prominent AKT activation in papillary and follicular cancers. Increased Connexin43 immunoreactivity was observed only in intra-vascular papillary cancer cells. Our data demonstrate that establishment of inter-cellular communication contributes to thyroid cancer cell resistance to anoikis. These findings suggest that disruption of gap junctional transfer could represent a potential therapeutic strategy for prevention of metastases.

Free access

J D Lin, M J Liou, T C Chao, H F Weng, and Y S Ho

From 1977 through 1995, 1,013 thyroid carcinoma patients received treatment and were followed up at Chang Gung Medical Center in Taiwan. To evaluate the prognostic variables of papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas with limited lymph node metastases, a retrospective review of these patients was performed. Of these patients, 910 had papillary or follicular thyroid carcinoma, and 119 patients were categorized as clinical stage 2 with limited neck lymph node metastases only at the time of diagnosis. The patients were categorized into two groups as no recurrence and local recurrence or distant metastasis at the end of 1997. After the operations, radioactive iodide (131I) treatments were performed in 114 patients and external radiotherapy for neck region or distant metastases in 18 patients. The median follow-up period of these patients was 5.4 years. Clinical variables were coded in our computer for statistical analysis. After the treatments, 93 patients remained disease-free; 10 were in stage 2; 5 in stage 3; and 11 aggravated to stage 4. Of the clinical variables, age, post-operative first 1311 uptake scans, and 1-month post-operative thyroglobulin levels revealed statistically significant differences between the group which improved and the group which did not. During the follow-up period, five patients died; three patients died of thyroid cancer and two died of intercurrent diseases. Patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma revealed a higher percentage of lymph node metastases. Although limited lymph node metastases did not influence survival rate, patients with poor prognostic factors need more aggressive treatment to avoid progression of the cancer.

Free access

Federica Panebianco, Alyaksandr V Nikitski, Marina N Nikiforova, Cihan Kaya, Linwah Yip, Vincenzo Condello, Abigail I Wald, Yuri E Nikiforov, and Simion I Chiosea

ALK fusions are found in various tumors, including thyroid cancer, and serve as a diagnostic marker and therapeutic target. Spectrum and outcomes of ALK fusions found in thyroid nodules and cancer are not fully characterized. We report a series of 44 ALK-translocated thyroid neoplasms, including 31 identified preoperatively in thyroid fine-needle aspirates (FNA). The average patients’ age was 43 years (range, 8–76 years); only one with radiation history. All 19 resected thyroid nodules with ALK fusion identified preoperatively were malignant. Among nodules with known surgical pathology (n = 32), 84% were papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs) and 16% poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas (PDTCs). PTCs showed infiltrative growth with follicular architecture seen exclusively (30%) or in combination with papillary and/or solid growth (37%). Tumor multifocality was seen in 10 (31%) PTC cases. Most PDTC had a well-differentiated PTC component. Lymph node metastases were identified in 10/18 (56%) patients with neck dissection. The most common ALK fusion partners were STRN (n = 22) and EML4 (n = 17). In five cases, novel ALK fusion partners were discovered. All five PDTCs carried STRN-ALK fusion. On follow-up, ten patients were free of disease at 2–108 months, whereas two patients with PDTC died of disease. In summary, ALK fusion-positive thyroid carcinomas are typically infiltrative PTC with common follicular growth, which may show tumor dedifferentiation associated with increased mortality. Compared to EML4-ALK, STRN-ALK may be more common in PDTC, and ~10% of ALK fusions occur to rare gene partners. When ALK fusion is detected preoperatively in FNA samples, malignancy should be expected.

Free access

Xiaoli Liu, Justin Bishop, Yuan Shan, Sara Pai, Dingxie Liu, Avaniyapuram Kannan Murugan, Hui Sun, Adel K El-Naggar, and Mingzhao Xing

Mutations 1 295 228 C>T and 1 295 250 C>T (termed C228T and C250T respectively), corresponding to −124 C>T and −146 C>T from the translation start site in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene, have recently been reported in human cancers, but not in thyroid cancers yet. We explored these mutations in thyroid cancers by genomic sequencing of a large number of primary tumor samples. We found the C228T mutation in 0 of 85 (0.0%) benign thyroid tumors, 30 of 257 (11.7%) papillary thyroid cancers (PTC), 9 of 79 (11.4%) follicular thyroid cancers (FTC), 3 of 8 (37.5%) poorly differentiated thyroid cancers (PDTC), 23 of 54 (42.6%) anaplastic thyroid cancers (ATC), and 8 of 12 (66.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. The C250T mutation was uncommon, but mutually exclusive with the C228T mutation, and the two mutations were collectively found in 11 of 79 (13.9%) FTC, 25 of 54 (46.3%) ATC, and 11 of 12 (91.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. Among PTC variants, the C228T mutation was found in 4 of 13 (30.8%) tall-cell PTC (TCPTC), 23 of 187 (12.3%) conventional PTC, and 2 of 56 (3.6%) follicular variant PTC samples. No TERT mutation was found in 16 medullary thyroid cancer samples. The C228T mutation was associated with the BRAF V600E mutation in PTC, being present in 19 of 104 (18.3%) BRAF mutation-positive PTC vs 11 of 153 (7.2%) the BRAF mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). Conversely, BRAF mutation was found in 19 of 30 (63.3%) C228T mutation-positive PTC vs 85 of 227 (37.4%) C228T mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). We thus for the first time, to our knowledge, demonstrate TERT promoter mutations in thyroid cancers, that are particularly prevalent in the aggressive thyroid cancers TCPTC, PDTC, ATC and BRAF mutation-positive PTC, revealing a novel genetic background for thyroid cancers.

Free access

Aruna V Krishnan and David Feldman

Calcitriol, the hormonally active form of vitamin D, exerts multiple anti-proliferative and pro-differentiating actions including cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis in many malignant cells, and the hormone is currently being evaluated in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent. Recent research reveals that calcitriol also exhibits multiple anti-inflammatory effects. First, calcitriol inhibits the synthesis and biological actions of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs) by three mechanisms: i) suppression of the expression of cyclooxygenase-2, the enzyme that synthesizes PGs; ii) up-regulation of the expression of 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase, the enzyme that inactivates PGs; and iii) down-regulation of the expression of PG receptors that are essential for PG signaling. The combination of calcitriol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs results in a synergistic inhibition of the growth of prostate cancer (PCa) cells and offers a potential therapeutic strategy for PCa. Second, calcitriol increases the expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 5 in prostate cells resulting in the subsequent inhibition of p38 stress kinase signaling and the attenuation of the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Third, calcitriol also exerts anti-inflammatory activity in PCa through the inhibition of nuclear factor-κB signaling that results in potent anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects. Other important direct effects of calcitriol as well as the consequences of its anti-inflammatory effects include the inhibition of tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. We hypothesize that these anti-inflammatory actions, in addition to the other known anti-cancer effects of calcitriol, play an important role in its potential use as a therapeutic agent for PCa. Calcitriol or its analogs may have utility as chemopreventive agents and should be evaluated in clinical trials in PCa patients with early or precancerous disease.

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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.