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Michael W Yeh, Jean-Philippe Rougier, Jin-Woo Park, Quan-Yang Duh, Mariwil Wong, Zena Werb, and Orlo H Clark

Mechanisms of invasion in thyroid cancer remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that signaling via the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) stimulates thyroid cancer cell invasion by altering the expression and cleavage of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Papillary and follicular carcinoma cell lines were treated with EGF, the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor AG1478, and the MMP inhibitors GM-6001 and Col-3. Flow cytometry was used to detect EGFR. In vitro invasion assays, gelatin zymography, and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR were used to assess the changes in invasive behavior and MMP expression and activation. All cell lines were found to overexpress functional EGFR. EGF stimulated invasion by thyroid cancer cells up to sevenfold (P < 0.0001), a process that was antagonized completely by AG1478 and Col-3, partially by GM-6001, but not by the serine protease inhibitor aprotinin. EGF upregulated expression of MMP-9 (2.64- to 8.89-fold, P < 0.0001) and membrane type-1 MMP (MT1-MMP, 1.97- to 2.67-fold, P < 0.0001). This effect was blocked completely by AG1478 and partially by Col-3. The activation of MMP-2 paralleled MT1-MMP expression. We demonstrate that MMPs are critical effectors of invasion in the papillary and follicular thyroid cancer cell lines studied. Invasion is regulated by signaling through EGFR, an effect mediated by augmentation of gelatinase expression and activation. MMP inhibitors and growth factor antagonists may be effective tumoristatic agents for the treatment of aggressive thyroid carcinomas.

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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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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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Olga Husson, Harm R Haak, Liza N van Steenbergen, Willy-Anne Nieuwlaat, Boukje A C van Dijk, Grard A P Nieuwenhuijzen, Henrike Karim-Kos, Johannes L Kuijpens, Lonneke V van de Poll-Franse, and Jan Willem W Coebergh

The incidence of thyroid cancer (TC) is increasing worldwide, partly due to increased detection. We therefore assessed combined trends in incidence, survival and mortality of the various types of TC in The Netherlands between 1989 and 2009. We included all patients ≥15 years with TC, diagnosed in the period 1989–2009 and recorded in The Netherlands Cancer Registry (n=8021). Information on age, gender, date of diagnosis, histological type of tumour and tumour–node–metastasis classification was recorded. Mortality data (up to 1st January 2010) were derived from Statistics Netherlands. Annual percentages of change in incidence, mortality and relative survival were calculated. Since 1989 the incidence of TC increased significantly in The Netherlands (estimated annual percentage change (EAPC)=+1.7%). The incidence rates increased for all age groups (except for females >60 years), papillary tumours (EAPC=+3.5%), T1 and T3 TC (EAPC=+7.9 and +5.8% respectively). Incidence rates decreased for T4 TC (−2.3%) and remained stable for follicular, medullary anaplastic and T2 TC. Five-year relative survival rates remained stable for papillary (88%) and follicular (77%) TC, all age groups and T1–T3 TC (96, 94 and 80% respectively) and somewhat lower for T4 (53%), medullary (65%) and anaplastic TC (5%) in the 2004–2009 period compared with earlier periods. Mortality due to TC decreased (EAPC=−1.9%). TC detection and incidence has been rising in The Netherlands, while mortality rates are decreasing and survival rates remained stable or slightly decreasing.

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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

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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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.