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Claudia Bozza, Fabio Puglisi, Matteo Lambertini, Etin-Osa Osa, Massimo Manno, and Lucia Del Mastro

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women of reproductive age. In young women, chemotherapy may induce amenorrhea: it is still uncertain how to assess menopausal status in these patients despite the importance of its definition for choosing appropriate endocrine treatment. In the development of sensitive biomarkers for fertility and ovarian reserve, anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is considered a promising marker of ovarian reserve. The clearest data regarding a clinical use of AMH are related to the measurement of the ovarian pool in women who undergo IVF: the available data, also in breast cancer patients, seem to suggest that AMH measurement, before gonadotropin administration, can be a useful marker for the prediction of women at risk for poor-response or no response to ovarian stimulation. The utility of AMH as a potential marker of chemotherapy-induced ovarian follicular depletion and an early plasma marker of chemotherapy-induced gonadal damage has been evaluated both in young women after treatment for cancer in childhood and in young survivors of hematological malignancies and solid tumors. Several studies have demonstrated a potential utility of AMH, inhibin, or follicle-stimulating factor as biomarkers predicting infertility risk in breast cancer patients, but the studies conducted so far are not conclusive. Further studies are needed in order to define the regimen-specific action of chemotherapy on AMH levels, the percentage of post-treatment recovery of plasma levels of the hormone, and the relationship between menopausal status and AMH.

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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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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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Giuseppe Palladino, Tiziana Notarangelo, Giuseppe Pannone, Annamaria Piscazzi, Olga Lamacchia, Lorenza Sisinni, Girolamo Spagnoletti, Paolo Toti, Angela Santoro, Giovanni Storto, Pantaleo Bufo, Mauro Cignarelli, Franca Esposito, and Matteo Landriscina

Tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated protein 1 (TRAP1) is a heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) molecular chaperone upregulated in several human malignancies and involved in protection from apoptosis and drug resistance, cell cycle progression, cell metabolism and quality control of specific client proteins. TRAP1 role in thyroid carcinoma (TC), still unaddressed at present, was investigated by analyzing its expression in a cohort of 86 human TCs and evaluating its involvement in cancer cell survival and proliferation in vitro. Indeed, TRAP1 levels progressively increased from normal peritumoral thyroid gland, to papillary TCs (PTCs), follicular variants of PTCs (FV-PTCs) and poorly differentiated TCs (PDTCs). By contrast, anaplastic thyroid tumors exhibited a dual pattern, the majority being characterized by high TRAP1 levels, while a small subgroup completely negative. Consistently with a potential involvement of TRAP1 in thyroid carcinogenesis, TRAP1 silencing resulted in increased sensitivity to paclitaxel-induced apoptosis, inhibition of cell cycle progression and attenuation of ERK signaling. Noteworthy, the inhibition of TRAP1 ATPase activity by pharmacological agents resulted in attenuation of cell proliferation, inhibition of ERK signaling and reversion of drug resistance. These data suggest that TRAP1 inhibition may be regarded as potential strategy to target specific features of human TCs, i.e., cell proliferation and resistance to apoptosis.

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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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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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Zhaoxia Zhang, Sasha Beyer, and Sissy M Jhiang

The Na+/I symporter (NIS (SLC5A5)) is a transmembrane glycoprotein that mediates active iodide uptake into thyroid follicular cells. NIS-mediated iodide uptake in thyroid cells is the basis for targeted radionuclide imaging and treatment of differentiated thyroid carcinomas and their metastases. Furthermore, NIS is expressed in many human breast tumors but not in normal non-lactating breast tissue, suggesting that NIS-mediated radionuclide uptake may also allow the imaging and targeted therapy of breast cancer. However, functional cell surface NIS expression is often low in breast cancer, making it important to uncover signaling pathways that modulate NIS expression at multiple levels, from gene transcription to posttranslational processing and cell surface trafficking. In this study, we investigated NIS regulation in breast cancer by MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK) signaling, an important cell signaling pathway involved in oncogenic transformation. We found that MEK inhibition decreased NIS protein levels in all-trans retinoic acid/hydrocortisone-treated MCF-7 cells as well as human breast cancer cells expressing exogenous NIS. The decrease in NIS protein levels by MEK inhibition was not accompanied by a decrease in NIS mRNA or a decrease in NIS mRNA export from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. NIS protein degradation upon MEK inhibition was prevented by lysosome inhibitors but not by proteasome inhibitors. Interestingly, NIS protein level was correlated with MEK/ERK activation in human breast tumors from a tissue microarray. Taken together, MEK activation appears to play an important role in maintaining NIS protein stability in human breast cancers.

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Alessandro Antonelli, Silvia Martina Ferrari, Poupak Fallahi, Silvia Frascerra, Simona Piaggi, Stefania Gelmini, Cristiana Lupi, Michele Minuto, Piero Berti, Salvatore Benvenga, Fulvio Basolo, Claudio Orlando, and Paolo Miccoli

In papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs), oncogenes activate a transcriptional program including the upregulation of CXCL10 chemokine, which stimulates proliferation and invasion. Furthermore, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) activators thiazolidinediones (TZDs) modulate CXCL10 secretion in normal thyroid follicular cells (TFC), and inhibit PTC growth. Until now, no study has evaluated the effect of cytokines on CXCL10 secretion in PTCs, nor the effect of PPARγ activation. The combined effects of interferon γ (IFNγ) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) stimulation on CXCL10 secretion in primary cells from PTCs and TFC were tested. Furthermore, the effect of PPARγ activation by TZDs, on CXCL10 secretion and proliferation in these cell types was studied. In primary cultures of TFC and PTCs CXCL10 production was absent under basal conditions; a similar dose-dependent secretion of CXCL10 was induced by IFNγ in both cell types. TNFα alone induced a slight but significant CXCL10 secretion only in PTCs. The stimulation with IFNγ+TNFα induced a synergistic CXCL10 release in both cell types; however, a secretion more than ten times higher was induced in PTCs. Treatment of TFC with TZDs dose-dependently suppressed IFNγ+TNFα-induced CXCL10 release, while TZDs stimulated CXCL10 secretion in PTCs. A significant antiproliferative effect by TZDs was observed only in PTCs. In conclusion, a dysregulation of CXCL10 secretion has been shown in PTCs. In fact, a CXCL10 secretion more than ten times higher has been induced by IFNγ+TNFα in PTCs with respect to TFC. Moreover, TZDs inhibited CXCL10 secretion in TFC and stimulated it in PTCs. The effect of TZDs on CXCL10 was unrelated to the significant antiproliferative effect in PTCs.

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Sonja Balthasar, Nina Bergelin, Christoffer Löf, Minna Vainio, Sture Andersson, and Kid Törnquist

Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) induces migration of human ML-1 thyroid follicular cancer cells and inhibits migration of human FRO anaplastic thyroid cancer cells. As tumour cells often secrete vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), we investigated a possible interaction between S1P and VEGF signalling in the regulation of thyroid tumour cell migration. We found that both ML-1 and FRO cells secreted VEGF-A (∼3.6 and <0.1 ng/106 cells/day respectively) and VEGF-C (∼3.0 and 0.14 ng/106 cells/day respectively). S1P stimulated VEGF-A secretion in both cell lines, and blocking S1P receptors 1, 2 and 3 attenuated the S1P-evoked secretion of VEGF-A. Neither TSH nor insulin affected the amount of secreted VEGF-A or -C in ML-1 cells, while simultaneous stimulation with insulin and S1P increased VEGF-C secretion in FRO cells. Both cell lines expressed VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) mRNA and proteins. Serum-evoked migration of both ML-1 and FRO cells was attenuated when VEGFR-2 was inhibited. Moreover, inhibiting VEGFR-2 in ML-1 cells resulted in a rapid downregulation of S1P1 mRNA expression and S1P1 protein levels, suppression of S1P-induced migration and a decrease in S1P-induced Akt phosphorylation. A VEGF-neutralizing antibody also reduced S1P-induced migration. In ML-1 cells, S1P phosphorylated VEGFR-2. In addition, VEGFR-2 inhibition resulted in the upregulation of S1P3 mRNA within 24 h, but a significant increase in S1P3 protein levels was not observed. VEGFR-2 inhibition, but not a VEGF-neutralizing antibody, reduced ML-1 cell proliferation independently of S1P stimulation. The results indicate a complex interaction between S1P and VEGFR-2 in ML-1 cells, particularly in regulating migratory responses.