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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

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

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

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.

Free access

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.

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

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.

Free access

Inga Mertens-Walker, Christine Bolitho, Robert C Baxter, and Deborah J Marsh

The gonadotropin hypothesis proposes that elevated serum gonadotropin levels may increase the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). We have studied the effect of treating EOC cell lines (OV207 and OVCAR-3) with FSH or LH. Both gonadotropins activated the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathway and increased cell migration that was inhibited by the MAPK 1 inhibitor PD98059. Both extra- and intracellular calcium ion signalling were implicated in gonadotropin-induced ERK1/2 activation as treatment with either the calcium chelator EGTA or an inhibitor of intracellular calcium release, dantrolene, inhibited gonadotropin-induced ERK1/2 activation. Verapamil was also inhibitory, indicating that gonadotropins activate calcium influx via L-type voltage-dependent calcium channels. The cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway was not involved in the mediation of gonadotropin action in these cells as gonadotropins did not increase intracellular cAMP formation and inhibition of PKA did not affect gonadotropin-induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Activation of ERK1/2 was inhibited by the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor GF 109203X as well as by the PKCδ inhibitor rottlerin, and downregulation of PKCδ was inhibited by small interfering RNA (siRNA), highlighting the importance of PKCδ in the gonadotropin signalling cascade. Furthermore, in addition to inhibition by PD98059, gonadotropin-induced ovarian cancer cell migration was also inhibited by verapamil, GF 109203X and rottlerin. Similarly, gonadotropin-induced proliferation was inhibited by PD98059, verapamil, GF 109203X and PKCδ siRNA. Taken together, these results demonstrate that gonadotropins induce both ovarian cancer cell migration and proliferation by activation of ERK1/2 signalling in a calcium- and PKCδ-dependent manner.

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.

Open access

Catherine Ory, Nicolas Ugolin, Céline Levalois, Ludovic Lacroix, Bernard Caillou, Jean-Michel Bidart, Martin Schlumberger, Ibrahima Diallo, Florent de Vathaire, Paul Hofman, José Santini, Bernard Malfoy, and Sylvie Chevillard

Both external and internal exposure to ionizing radiation are strong risk factors for the development of thyroid tumors. Until now, the diagnosis of radiation-induced thyroid tumors has been deduced from a network of arguments taken together with the individual history of radiation exposure. Neither the histological features nor the genetic alterations observed in these tumors have been shown to be specific fingerprints of an exposure to radiation. The aim of our work is to define ionizing radiation-related molecular specificities in a series of secondary thyroid tumors developed in the radiation field of patients treated by radiotherapy. To identify molecular markers that could represent a radiation-induction signature, we compared 25K microarray transcriptome profiles of a learning set of 28 thyroid tumors, which comprised 14 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTA) and 14 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC), either sporadic or consecutive to external radiotherapy in childhood. We identified a signature composed of 322 genes which discriminates radiation-induced tumors (FTA and PTC) from their sporadic counterparts. The robustness of this signature was further confirmed by blind case-by-case classification of an independent set of 29 tumors (16 FTA and 13 PTC). After the histology code break by the clinicians, 26/29 tumors were well classified regarding tumor etiology, 1 was undetermined, and 2 were misclassified. Our results help shed light on radiation-induced thyroid carcinogenesis, since specific molecular pathways are deregulated in radiation-induced tumors.