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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.

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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.

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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.

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Xiaoyun Dong, Waixing Tang, Stephen Stopenski, Marcia S Brose, Christopher Korch, and Judy L Meinkoth

The functional significance of decreased RAP1GAP protein expression in human tumors is unclear. To identify targets of RAP1GAP downregulation in the thyroid gland, RAP1 and RAP2 protein expression in human thyroid cells and in primary thyroid tumors were analyzed. RAP1GAP and RAP2 were co-expressed in normal thyroid follicular cells. Intriguingly, RAP1 was not detected in normal thyroid cells, although it was detected in papillary thyroid carcinomas, which also expressed RAP2. Both RAP proteins were detected at the membrane in papillary thyroid tumors, suggesting that they are activated when RAP1GAP is downregulated. To explore the functional significance of RAP1GAP depletion, RAP1GAP was transiently expressed at the lowest level that is sufficient to block endogenous RAP2 activity in papillary and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma cell lines. RAP1GAP impaired the ability of cells to spread and migrate on collagen. Although RAP1GAP had no effect on protein tyrosine phosphorylation in growing cells, RAP1GAP impaired phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase and paxillin at sites phosphorylated by SRC in cells acutely plated on collagen. SRC activity was increased in suspended cells, where it was inhibited by RAP1GAP. Inhibition of SRC kinase activity impaired cell spreading and motility. These findings identify SRC as a target of RAP1GAP depletion and suggest that the downregulation of RAP1GAP in thyroid tumors enhances SRC-dependent signals that regulate cellular architecture and motility.

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M M Muresan, P Olivier, J Leclère, F Sirveaux, L Brunaud, M Klein, R Zarnegar, and G Weryha

The presence of distant metastases from differentiated thyroid carcinoma decreases the 10-year survival of patients by 50%. Bone metastases represent a frequent complication especially of follicular thyroid cancer and severely reduce the quality of life causing pain, fractures, and spinal cord compression. Diagnosis is established by correlating clinical suspicion with imaging. Imaging is essential to detect, localize, and assess the extension of the lesions and should be used in conjunction with clinical evidence. Bone metastases are typically associated with elevated markers of bone turnover, but these markers have not been evaluated in differentiated thyroid cancer. Skeletal and whole-body magnetic resonance imaging and fusion 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-d-glucose whole-body positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) are the best anatomic and functional imaging techniques available in specialized centers. For well-differentiated lesions, iodine-PET scan combined 124I-PET/CT is the newest imaging development and 131I is the first line of treatment. Bisphosphonates reduce the complications rate and pain, alone or in combination with radioiodine, radionuclides, or external beam radiotherapy and should be employed. Surgery and novel minimally invasive consolidation techniques demand an appropriate patient selection for best results on a multimodal approach. Basic research on interactions between tumor cells and bone microenvironment are identifying potential novel targets for future more effective therapeutic interventions for less differentiated tumors.

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Feng Wu, Fuxingzi Li, Xiao Lin, Feng Xu, Rong-Rong Cui, Jia-Yu Zhong, Ting Zhu, Su-Kang Shan, Xiao-Bo Liao, Ling-Qing Yuan, and Zhao-Hui Mo

Tumour-derived exosomes under hypoxic conditions contain informative miRNAs involved in the interaction of cancer and para-carcinoma cells, thus contributing to tissue remodelling of the tumour microenvironment (TME). Exosomes isolated from hypoxic papillary thyroid cancer cells, BCPAP cells and KTC-1 cells enhanced the angiogenesis of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) compared with exosomes isolated from normal thyroid follicular cell line (Nthy-ori-3-1), normoxic BCPAP or KTC-1 cells both in vitro and in vivo. miR-21-5p was significantly upregulated in exosomes from papillary thyroid cancer BCPAP cells under hypoxic conditions, while the exosomes isolated from hypoxic BCPAP cells with knockdown of miR-21-5p attenuated the promoting effect of angiogenesis. In addition, our experiment revealed that miR-21-5p directly targeted and suppressed TGFBI and COL4A1, thereby increasing endothelial tube formation. Furthermore, elevated levels of exosomal miR-21-5p are found in the sera of papillary thyroid cancer patients, which promote the angiogenesis of HUVECs. Taken together, our study reveals the cell interaction between hypoxic papillary thyroid cancer cells and endothelial cells, elucidating a new mechanism by which hypoxic papillary thyroid cancer cells increase angiogenesis via exosomal miR-21-5p/TGFBI and miR-21-5p/COL4A1 regulatory pathway.