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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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Pedro Weslley Rosario, Gabriela Franco Mourão, Maurício Buzelin Nunes, Marcelo Saldanha Nunes, and Maria Regina Calsolari

Recently, it was proposed that some papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) will no longer be termed ‘cancer’ and are christened as ‘noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features’ (NIFTP). As this is a recent definition, little information is available about NIFTP. The objective of this study was to report the frequency, ultrasonographic appearance, cytology result and long-term evolution of cases of NIFTP seen at our institution. We excluded tumours ≤1 cm. The sample consisted of 129 patients. Sixty-four patients were submitted to total thyroidectomy and 65 to lobectomy. These patients with NIFTP did not receive radioiodine. NIFTP corresponded to 15% of cases diagnosed as PTC >1 cm. An ultrasonographic appearance considered to be of low suspicion for malignancy was common in NIFTP (32.5%), whereas a highly suspicious appearance was uncommon (5%). NIFTP frequently exhibited indeterminate cytology (62%), while malignant cytology was uncommon (4%). The patients were followed up for 12–146 months (median 72 months) after surgery. None of the patients developed structural disease during follow-up. Comparing the concentrations of thyroglobulin (Tg) and anti-Tg antibodies (TgAb) obtained 6–12 months after surgery and in the last assessment, none of the patients exhibited an increase in these markers.

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David Viola, Laura Valerio, Eleonora Molinaro, Laura Agate, Valeria Bottici, Agnese Biagini, Loredana Lorusso, Virginia Cappagli, Letizia Pieruzzi, Carlotta Giani, Elena Sabini, Paolo Passannati, Luciana Puleo, Antonio Matrone, Benedetta Pontillo-Contillo, Valentina Battaglia, Salvatore Mazzeo, Paolo Vitti, and Rossella Elisei

Abstract

Thyroid cancer is rare, but it is the most frequent endocrine malignancy. Its prognosis is generally favorable, especially in cases of well-differentiated thyroid cancers (DTCs), such as papillary and follicular cancers, which have survival rates of approximately 95% at 40 years. However, 15–20% of cases became radioiodine refractory (RAI-R), and until now, no other treatments have been effective. The same problems are found in cases of poorly differentiated (PDTC) and anaplastic (ATC) thyroid cancers and in at least 30% of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) cases, which are very aggressive and not sensitive to radioiodine. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) represent a new approach to the treatment of advanced cases of RAI-R DTC, MTC, PDTC, and, possibly, ATC. In the past 10 years, several TKIs have been tested for the treatment of advanced, progressive, and RAI-R thyroid tumors, and some of them have been recently approved for use in clinical practice: sorafenib and lenvatinib for DTC and PDTC and vandetanib and cabozantinib for MTC. The objective of this review is to present the current status of the treatment of advanced thyroid cancer with the use of innovative targeted therapies by describing both the benefits and the limits of their use based on the experiences reported so far. A comprehensive analysis and description of the molecular basis of these therapies, as well as new therapeutic perspectives, are reported. Some practical suggestions are given for both the choice of patients to be treated and their management, with particular regard to the potential side effects.

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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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Brian Hung-Hin Lang, Chung-Yau Lo, Wai-Fan Chan, King-Yin Lam, and Koon-Yat Wan

A number of risk-group stratification or staging systems have been found useful at stratifying patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma into risk groups. Those identified as high risk could be subjected to more aggressive treatment, while those at low risk could be spared of such treatment. However, the best stratification system in patients with follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) remains unclear. Through a comprehensive MEDLINE search from 1965 to 2005, a total of 18 different staging systems were identified in the literature and 14 of them were applicable to 171 patients, with FTC managed at our institution from 1961 to 2001. Cancer-specific survivals (CSS) were calculated by Kaplan–Meier method and were compared by log-rank test. Using Cox proportional hazards analysis, the relative importance of each staging system in determining CSS was calculated by the proportion of variation in survival time explained (PVE). CSS were predicted by 13 out of the 14 staging systems significantly (P < 0.001). The three highest ranked staging systems by PVE were the new American Joint Commitee on Cancer/Union Internationale Centre le Cancer 6th edition, tumour, node, metastases (TNM; 22.4), followed by the Clinical Class (21.2) and the metastases, age, completeness of resection, invasion, size (MACIS; 20.4). In conclusion, 13 out of the 14 presently available staging systems predicted CSS significantly in FTC. When predictability was measured by PVE, the TNM system was found to have the best predictability and thus, should be the stratification system of choice for FTC in the future.

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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.

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Zhenying Guo, Heather Hardin, and Ricardo V Lloyd

Thyroid cancer is one of the most rapidly increasing malignancies. The reasons for this increase is not completely known, but increases in the diagnosis of papillary thyroid microcarcinomas and follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinomas along with the enhanced detection of well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas are probably all contributing factors. Although most cases of well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas are associated with an excellent prognosis, a small percentage of patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas as well as most patients with poorly differentiated and anaplastic thyroid carcinomas have recurrent and/or metastatic disease that is often fatal. The cancer stem-like cell (CSC) model suggests that a small number of cells within a cancer, known as CSCs, are responsible for resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as for recurrent and metastatic disease. This review discusses current studies about thyroid CSCs, the processes of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition that provide plasticity to CSC growth, in addition to the role of microRNAs in CSC development and regulation. Understanding the biology of CSCs, EMT and the metastatic cascade should lead to the design of more rational targeted therapies for highly aggressive and fatal thyroid cancers.

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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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G Riesco-Eizaguirre, P Gutiérrez-Martínez, M A García-Cabezas, M Nistal, and P Santisteban

The oncogene BRAFV600E is the most frequent genetic event in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) but its prognostic impact still remains to be elucidated. We evaluated a representative series of 67 individuals with PTC who underwent total thyroidectomy. BRAF-positive tumours correlated with early recurrences (32% vs 7.6%; P=0.02) during a median postoperative follow-up period of 3 years. Interestingly, within the recurrences, a significant majority had negative radioiodine (131I) total body scans, predicting a poorer outcome as treatment with 131I is not effective. This last observation led us to investigate the role of BRAFV600E and the MEK-ERK pathway in thyroid dedifferentiation, particularly in Na+/I symporter (NIS) impairment, as this thyroid-specific plasma membrane glycoprotein mediates active transport of I into the thyroid follicular cells. A subset of 60 PTC samples was evaluated for NIS immunoreactivity and, accordingly, we confirmed a significant low NIS expression and impaired targeting to membranes in BRAF-positive samples (3.5% vs 30%; P=0.005). Furthermore, experiments with differentiated PCCl3 thyroid cells demonstrated that transient expression of BRAFV600E sharply impaired both NIS expression and targeting to membrane and, surprisingly, this impairment was not totally dependent on the MEK-ERK pathway. We have concluded that BRAFV600E is a new prognostic factor in PTC that correlates with a high risk of recurrences and less differentiated tumours due to the loss of NIS-mediated 131I uptake.