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Alicia A Tone, Carl Virtanen, Patricia A Shaw, and Theodore J Brown

We previously reported that BRCA1/2-mutated fallopian tube epithelium (FTE) collected during the luteal phase exhibits gene expression profiles more closely resembling that of high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) specimens than FTE collected during the follicular phase or from control patients. Since the luteal phase is characterised by high levels of progesterone, we determined whether the expression of progesterone receptor (PR) and PR-responsive genes was altered in FTE obtained from BRCA mutation carriers during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. RT-qPCR confirmed a decreased expression of PR mRNA in FTE during the luteal phase relative to follicular phase, in both BRCA1/2 mutation carriers and control patients. Immunohistochemistry using isoform-specific antibodies confirmed a low level of both PR-A and PR-B in HGSC and a lower level of staining in FTE samples obtained during the luteal phase compared with the follicular phase. No significant difference in PR-A or PR-B staining was found based on patient BRCA mutation status. Analysis of our previously reported gene expression profiles based upon known PR-A- and PR-B-specific target genes did not partition samples by BRCA mutation status, indicating that overall FTE PR response is not altered in BRCA mutation carriers. HGSC samples grouped separately from other samples, consistent with the observed loss of PR expression. These findings indicate no overall difference in PR signalling in FTE as a function of BRCA mutation status. Thus, the molecular similarity of BRCA1/2-mutated luteal phase FTE and HGSC likely results from an altered response to luteal phase factors other than progesterone.

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Ebtesam Qasem, Avaniyapuram Kannan Murugan, Hindi Al-Hindi, Mingzhao Xing, Mai Almohanna, Meshael Alswailem, and Ali S Alzahrani

Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter mutations C228T and C250T have recently been described in follicular cell-derived thyroid cancer (TC) in patients from North America and Europe. In this study, we explored whether these findings could be replicated in patients from a different ethnic group. We screened 17 benign thyroid adenomas and 265 TC samples from patients in the Middle East for these mutations by PCR and direct sequencing using DNA isolated from paraffin-embedded tumor tissues. None of the 17 benign adenomas harbored TERT promoter mutations. Of 265 TC, 34 (12.8%) harbored TERT promoter mutations, including 10/153 (6.5%) conventional papillary TC (CPTC), 8/57 (14.0%) follicular variant PTC, 9/30 (30%) tall cell variant PTC, 1/3 (30%) Hurthle cell thyroid cancer (HTC), 1/5 (20%) follicular TC, and 5/13 (38.5%) poorly differentiated TC. C250T mutation was present in only 6/265 (2.3%) cases, while C228T mutation was present in a total of 28/265 (10.6%) cases. These two mutations were mutually exclusive. TERT promoter mutations were significantly more common in older (≥45 years) than younger patients and were associated with larger tumour size, vascular invasion, higher TNM stage (stage III and IV), BRAF V600E mutation and persistent/recurrent disease at 6–12 months after initial treatment and at the last follow up. These associations were stronger in non-CPTC. Thus, this study on a large cohort of TC patients from Middle East demonstrates that TERT promoter mutations are relatively common, especially in the non-CPTC, and are associated with more aggressive histopathological features, BRAF V600E mutation, and disease persistence/recurrence than the WT TERT.

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N Garcia de la Torre, I Buley, J A H Wass, and H E Turner

The role of angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis in thyroid cancer pathogenesis has not been elucidated. Patterns for tumour behaviour and metastasic spread vary according to tumour type and whether differences in the angiogenic or lymphangiogenic phenotype influence the route for tumour metastases or determine a more aggressive behaviour has not been fully explored. The angiogenic and lymphangiogenic phenotypes of a large cohort of thyroid proliferative lesions (n=191) were studied. Using immunohistochemistry for CD34, lymphatic vessel endothelial receptor-1 (LYVE-1) (specific markers for vascular and lymphatic endothelium respectively), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A), VEGF-C and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), this study analyses microvascular density (MVD), lymphatic vascular density (LVD), and expression of angiogenic and lymphangiogenic factors in normal thyroid (NT; n=19), multinodular goitre (n=25), toxic multinodular goitre (n=8), Graves’ hyperplasia (n=22), follicular adenoma (n=54), papillary carcinoma (PC; n=27), incidental papillary microcarcinoma (PMC; n=8), follicular carcinoma (FC; n=20) and medullary carcinoma (MC; n=8). MVD was decreased in proliferative lesions, benign and malignant, compared with NT (P<0.0001). In contrast, VEGF-A expression was increased in thyroid carcinomas (PC, FC and MC) when compared with PMC, benign lesions and NT (P<0.0001). LVD was higher in PC and PMC (P=0.001), and VEGF-C expression was increased in PC (P<0.0001). Despite higher LVD and increased expression of VEGF-A and VEGF-C in thyroid cancers, these markers were not related to poor prognosis in terms of tumour size, multifocality and/or presence of lymphatic or distant metastases. In conclusion, angiogenesis is reduced in thyroid proliferative lesions compared with NT tissue. However, VEGF-A expression is upregulated in thyroid cancers. Lymphangiogenesis and VEGF-C expression are increased in thyroid tumours prone to lymphatic metastases. This may be an important mechanism underlying the differences in metastatic behaviour between papillary and follicular thyroid cancer.

Free access

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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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.

Free access

Debora Degl'Innocenti, Paola Romeo, Eva Tarantino, Marialuisa Sensi, Giuliana Cassinelli, Veronica Catalano, Cinzia Lanzi, Federica Perrone, Silvana Pilotti, Ettore Seregni, Marco A Pierotti, Angela Greco, and Maria Grazia Borrello

Thyroid carcinomas derived from follicular cells comprise papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), follicular thyroid carcinoma, poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma (PDTC) and undifferentiated anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). PTC, the most frequent thyroid carcinoma histotype, is associated with gene rearrangements that generate RET/PTC and TRK oncogenes and with BRAF-V600E and RAS gene mutations. These last two genetic lesions are also present in a fraction of PDTCs. The ERK1/2 pathway, downstream of the known oncogenes activated in PTC, has a central role in thyroid carcinogenesis. In this study, we demonstrate that the BRAF-V600E, RET/PTC, and TRK oncogenes upregulate the ERK1/2 pathway's attenuator cytoplasmic dual-phase phosphatase DUSP6/MKP3 in thyroid cells. We also show DUSP6 overexpression at the mRNA and protein levels in all the analysed PTC cell lines. Furthermore, DUSP6 mRNA was significantly higher in PTC and PDTC in comparison with normal thyroid tissues both in expression profile datasets and in patients' surgical samples analysed by real-time RT-PCR. Immunohistochemical and western blot analyses showed that DUSP6 was also overexpressed at the protein level in most PTC and PDTC surgical samples tested, but not in ATC, and revealed a positive correlation trend with ERK1/2 pathway activation. Finally, DUSP6 silencing reduced the neoplastic properties of four PTC cell lines, thus suggesting that DUSP6 may have a pro-tumorigenic role in thyroid carcinogenesis.

Free access

Salvatore Ulisse, Enke Baldini, Matteo Toller, Jean-Guy Delcros, Aurélie Guého, Francesco Curcio, Enrico De Antoni, Laura Giacomelli, Francesco S Ambesi-Impiombato, Sarah Bocchini, Massimino D’Armiento, and Yannick Arlot-Bonnemains

Aurora-A kinase has recently been shown to be deregulated in thyroid cancer cells and tissues. Among the Aurora-A substrates identified, transforming acidic coiled-coil (TACC3), a member of the TACC family, plays an important role in cell cycle progression and alterations of its expression occur in different cancer tissues. In this study, we demonstrated the expression of the TACC3 gene in normal human thyroid cells (HTU5), and its modulation at both mRNA and protein levels during cell cycle. Its expression was found, with respect to HTU5 cells, unchanged in cells derived from a benign thyroid follicular tumor (HTU42), and significantly reduced in cell lines derived from follicular (FTC-133), papillary (B-CPAP), and anaplastic thyroid carcinomas (CAL-62 and 8305C). Moreover, in 16 differentiated thyroid cancer tissues, TACC3 mRNA levels were found, with respect to normal matched tissues, reduced by twofold in 56% of cases and increased by twofold in 44% of cases. In the same tissues, a correlation between the expression of the TACC3 and Aurora-A mRNAs was observed. TACC3 and Aurora-A interact in vivo in thyroid cells and both proteins localized onto the mitotic structure of thyroid cells. Finally, TACC3 localization on spindle microtubule was no more observed following the inhibition of Aurora kinase activity by VX-680. We propose that Aurora-A and TACC3 interaction is important to control the mitotic spindle organization required for proper chromosome segregation.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.