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James Koh, Joyce A Hogue, Sanziana A Roman, Randall P Scheri, Hèléne Fradin, David L Corcoran, and Julie A Sosa

The clinical presentation of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) varies widely, although the underlying mechanistic reasons for this disparity remain unknown. We recently reported that parathyroid tumors can be functionally segregated into two distinct groups on the basis of their relative responsiveness to ambient calcium, and that patients in these groups differ significantly in their likelihood of manifesting bone disability. To examine the molecular basis for this phenotypic variation in PHPT, we compared the global gene expression profiles of calcium-sensitive and calcium-resistant parathyroid tumors. RNAseq and proteomic analysis identified a candidate set of differentially expressed genes highly correlated with calcium-sensing capacity. Subsequent quantitative assessment of the expression levels of these genes in an independent cohort of parathyroid tumors confirmed that calcium-sensitive tumors cluster in a discrete transcriptional profile group. These data indicate that PHPT is not an etiologically monolithic disorder and suggest that divergent molecular mechanisms could drive the observed phenotypic differences in PHPT disease course, provenance, and outcome.

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A Falchetti and M L Brandi

Multiple Endocrine Neoplasias type 1 (MEN 1) and type 2 (MEN 2) represent complex inherited (autosomal dominant traits) syndromes characterized by occurrence of distinct proliferative disorders of endocrine tissues, varying from hyperplasia to adenoma and carcinoma.

MEN 1 syndrome is characterized by parathyroid gland, anterior pituitary and endocrine pancreas tumors. Other endocrine and non endocrine tumors, such as carcinoids, lipomas, pinealomas, adrenocortical and thyroid follicular tumors, have been also described in MEN 1 patients occurring at higher frequency than in general population (Brandi ML et al. 1987). Recently also a spinal ependymoma has been found in a patient with MEN 1 syndrome (Kato H et al 1997)

MEN 2 syndromes recognize three main clinical entities, MEN 2A, characterized by medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and pheochromocytoma (PHEO); MEN 2B that exhibits MTC, usually developing sooner than the MEN 2A- associated one, pheochromocytoma, multiple neuromas of gastroenteric mucosa, myelinated corneal nerves (Gorlin RJ et al. 1968) and a typical marphanoid habitus; and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma only (FMTC) featuring by families with at least four members with MTC and no objective evidence of pheochromocytoma and parathyroid disease on screening of affected and at-risk members, as stated by the International RET Mutation Consortium (Larsson C et al. 1994).

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants of the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (to MLB), from CNR/PF ACRO (INV. 95.00316 PF 39) and by MURST 60% (to MLB).

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Jessica Svedlund, Elham Barazeghi, Peter Stålberg, Per Hellman, Göran Åkerström, Peyman Björklund, and Gunnar Westin

Primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) resulting from parathyroid tumors is a common endocrine disorder with incompletely understood etiology. In renal failure, secondary hyperparathyroidism (sHPT) occurs with multiple tumor development as a result of calcium and vitamin D regulatory disturbance. The aim of this study was to investigate a potential role of the histone 3 lysine 27 methyltransferase EZH2 in parathyroid tumorigenesis. Parathyroid tumors from patients with pHPT included adenomas and carcinomas. Hyperplastic parathyroid glands from patients with HPT secondary to uremia and normal parathyroid tissue specimens were included in this study. Quantitative RT-PCR, western blotting, bisulfite pyrosequencing, colony formation assay, and RNA interference were used. EZH2 was overexpressed in a subset of the benign and in all malignant parathyroid tumors as determined by quantitative RT-PCR and western blotting analyses. Overexpression was explained by EZH2 gene amplification in a large fraction of tumors. EZH2 depletion by RNA interference inhibited sHPT-1 parathyroid cell line proliferation as determined by tritium–thymidine incorporation and colony formation assays. EZH2 depletion also interfered with the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway by increased expression of growth-suppressive AXIN2, a negative regulator of β-catenin stability. Indeed, EZH2 contributed to the total level of aberrantly accumulated transcriptionally active (nonphosphoylated) β-catenin in the parathyroid tumor cells. To our knowledge EZH2 gene amplification presents the first genetic aberration common to parathyroid adenomas, secondary hyperplastic parathyroid glands, and parathyroid carcinomas. This supports the possibility of a common pathway in parathyroid tumor development.

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Johan O Paulsson, Ninni Mu, Ivan Shabo, Na Wang, Jan Zedenius, Catharina Larsson, and C Christofer Juhlin

Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter mutations have been linked to adverse clinical parameters in thyroid cancer, but TERT-expressing tumours are not always mutated. Little is known regarding other TERT-related genetic aberrations. To delineate the role of TERT gene aberrancies in follicular thyroid tumours, 95 follicular carcinomas (FTCs), 43 follicular adenomas (FTAs) and 33 follicular tumours of uncertain malignant potential (FT-UMPs) were collected. The tumours were assayed for TERT expression, TERT promoter mutations, TERT promoter hypermethylation and TERT gene copy number (CN) alterations and the results were compared to clinical parameters. Cases with mutation, detectable mRNA expression, CN gain or hypermethylation were classified as TERT aberrant, and these aberrancies were regularly found in FTC and FT-UMP but uncommonly found in FTA. In total, 59% FTCs and 63% FT-UMPs exhibited one or more of these TERT gene aberrancies. Moreover, 24 out of 28 FTCs (86%) with TERT expression displayed an evident TERT gene aberration, and statistics showed an increased risk for relapse in FTCs with TERT expression, CN gain or hypermethylation. We conclude that TERT expression in follicular thyroid tumours is coupled to promoter mutations, CN gain and increased promoter methylation. The molecular similarities regarding TERT aberrations between the FTC and FT-UMP groups indicate that a significant subset of FT-UMP cases may display future recurrences. TERT aberrancies are thus promising as future additional markers for determining malignant potential of follicular thyroid tumours.

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E Saggiorato, R De Pompa, M Volante, S Cappia, F Arecco, A P Dei Tos, F Orlandi, and M Papotti

The distinction of benign from malignant follicular thyroid neoplasms remains a difficult task in diagnostic fine-needle aspiration cytology, and some discrepant results have been reported for the individual immunocytochemical markers of malignancy proposed so far. The aim of this study was to test if the combined use of a panel of markers could improve the diagnostic accuracy in the preoperative cytological evaluation of ‘follicular neoplasms’ in an attempt to reduce the number of thyroidectomies performed for benign lesions. The immunocytochemical expression of galectin-3, HBME-1, thyroperoxidase, cytokeratin-19 and keratan-sulfate was retrospectively analyzed in 125 consecutive fine-needle aspiration samples (cell blocks) of indeterminate diagnoses of ‘follicular thyroid neoplasm’, and compared with their corresponding surgical specimens, including 33 follicular carcinomas, 42 papillary carcinomas and 50 follicular adenomas. Statistical analysis on each marker confirmed that galectin-3 and HBME-1 were the most sensitive (92% and 80% respectively) and specific (94% and 96% respectively) molecules. The use of these two markers sequentially in non-oncocytic lesions (testing HBME-1 as a second marker whenever galectin-3 proved negative) increased the sensitivity and specificity up to 97% and 95% respectively. In oncocytic lesions, HBME-1 proved to be less sensitive, and the sequential combination of galectin-3 and cytokeratin-19 reached 100% of both specificity and sensitivity. Our data showed that, as compared with the use of single markers, the sequential combination of two markers represents the most accurate immunohistochemical panel in managing patients with a fine-needle aspiration biopsy diagnosis of ‘follicular neoplasms’, especially in otherwise controversial categories such as oncocytic tumours. The combination of three or more markers did not substantially improve the diagnostic accuracy of the test.

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Maria Denaro, Clara Ugolini, Anello Marcello Poma, Nicla Borrelli, Gabriele Materazzi, Paolo Piaggi, Massimo Chiarugi, Paolo Miccoli, Paolo Vitti, and Fulvio Basolo

Noninvasive encapsulated follicular variants of papillary thyroid carcinomas have been recently reclassified as noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasms with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTPs). NIFTPs exhibit a behavior that is very close to that of follicular adenomas but different from the infiltrative and invasive follicular variants of papillary thyroid carcinomas (FVPTCs). The importance of miRNAs to carcinogenesis has been reported in recent years. miRNAs seem to be promising diagnostic and prognostic molecular markers for thyroid cancer, and the combination of miRNA expression and mutational status might improve cytological diagnosis. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the miRNA expression profile in wild-type, RAS - or BRAF-mutated NIFTPs, infiltrative and invasive FVPTCs, and follicular adenomas using the nCounter miRNA Expression assay (NanoString Technologies). To identify the significant Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) molecular pathways associated with deregulated miRNAs, we used the union of pathways option in DNA Intelligent Analysis (DIANA) miRPath software. We have shown that the miRNA expression profiles of wild-type and mutated NIFTPs could be different. The expression profile of wild-type NIFTPs seems comparable to that of follicular adenomas, whereas mutated NIFTPs have an expression profile similar to that of infiltrative and invasive FVPTCs. The upregulation of 4 miRNAs (miR-221-5p, miR-221-3p, miR-222-3p, miR-146b-5p) and the downregulation of 8 miRNAs (miR-181a-3p, miR-28-5p, miR-363-3p, miR-342-3p, miR-1285-5p, miR-152-3p, miR-25-3p, miR-30e-3) in mutated NIFTPs compared to wild-type ones suggest a potential invasive-like phenotype by deregulating the specific pathways involved in cell adhesion and cell migration (Hippo signaling pathway, ECM-receptor interaction, adherens junction, regulation of actin cytoskeleton, fatty acid biosynthesis and metabolism).

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Willem E Corver, Joris Demmers, Jan Oosting, Shima Sahraeian, Arnoud Boot, Dina Ruano, Tom van Wezel, and Hans Morreau

A near-homozygous genome (NHG) is especially seen in a subset of follicular thyroid cancer of the oncocytic type (FTC-OV). An NHG was also observed in the metabolically relatively quiescent cell lines XTC.UC1, a model for FTC-OV, and in FTC-133, -236 and -238, the latter three derived from one single patient with follicular thyroid cancer. FTC-236 subclones showed subtle whole-chromosome differences indicative of sustained reciprocal mitotic missegregations. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger experiments reduced the number of chromosomal missegregations in XTC.UC1 and FTC-236, while pCHK2 was downregulated in these cells. Treatment with antimycin A increased ROS indicated by enhanced MitoSOX Red and pCHK2 fluorescence in metaphase cells. In a selected set of oncocytic follicular thyroid tumors, increasing numbers of whole-chromosome losses were observed toward an aggressive phenotype, but with retention of chromosome 7. Together, ROS activates CHK2 and links to the stepwise loss of whole chromosomes during tumor progression in these lesions. We postulate that sequential loss of whole chromosomes is a dominant driver of the oncogenesis of a subset of follicular thyroid tumors.

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Pedro Weslley Rosario and Gabriela Franco Mourão

Noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP) is an encapsulated or clearly delimited, noninvasive neoplasm with a follicular growth pattern and nuclear features of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). It is considered a ‘pre-malignant’ lesion of the RAS-like group. Ultrasonography (US), cytology and molecular tests are useful to suspect thyroid nodules that correspond to NIFTP but there is wide overlap of the results with the encapsulated follicular variant of PTC (E-FVPTC). In these nodules that possibly or likely correspond to NIFTP, if surgery is indicated, lobectomy is favored over total thyroidectomy. The diagnosis of NIFTP is made after complete resection of the lesion by observing well-defined criteria. In the case of patients who received the diagnosis of FVPTC and whose pathology report does not show findings of malignancy (lymph node metastasis, extrathyroidal invasion, vascular/capsular invasion), if the tumor was encapsulated or well delimited, the slides can be revised by an experienced pathologist to determine whether the diagnostic criteria of NIFTP are met, but special attention must be paid to the adequate representativeness of the capsule and tumor. Since NIFTP is not ‘malignant’, tumor staging is not necessary and patients are not submitted to thyroid cancer protocols or guidelines. We believe that patients with NIFTP without associated malignancy and without nodules detected by US of the remnant lobe (if submitted to lobectomy) can be managed like those with follicular adenoma.

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Rehannah Borup, Maria Rossing, Ricardo Henao, Yohei Yamamoto, Annelise Krogdahl, Christian Godballe, Ole Winther, Katalin Kiss, Lise Christensen, Estrid Høgdall, Finn Bennedbæk, and Finn Cilius Nielsen

The molecular pathways leading to thyroid follicular neoplasia are incompletely understood, and the diagnosis of follicular tumors is a clinical challenge. To provide leads to the pathogenesis and diagnosis of the tumors, we examined the global transcriptome signatures of follicular thyroid carcinoma (FC) and normofollicular adenoma (FA) as well as fetal/microFA (fetal adenoma). Carcinomas were strongly enriched in transcripts encoding proteins involved in DNA replication and mitosis corresponding to increased number of proliferating cells and depleted number of transcripts encoding factors involved in growth arrest and apoptosis. In the latter group, the combined loss of transcripts encoding the nuclear orphan receptors NR4A1 and NR4A3, which were recently shown to play a causal role in hematopoetic neoplasia, was noteworthy. The analysis of differentially expressed transcripts provided a mechanism for cancer progression, which is why we exploited the results in order to generate a molecular classifier that could identify 95% of all carcinomas. Validation employing public domain and cross-platform data demonstrated that the signature was robust and could diagnose follicular nodules originating from different geographical locations and platforms with similar accuracy. We came to the conclusion that down-regulation of factors involved in growth arrest and apoptosis may represent a decisive step in the pathogenesis of FC. Moreover, the described molecular pathways provide an accurate and robust genetic signature for the diagnosis of FA and FC.

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Theodoros Foukakis, Arief Gusnanto, Amy YM Au, Anders Höög, Weng-Onn Lui, Catharina Larsson, Göran Wallin, and Jan Zedenius

The diagnosis of follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) in the absence of metastasis can only be established postoperatively. Moreover, high-risk FTCs are often not identifiable at the time of diagnosis. In this study, we aimed to identify transcriptional markers of malignancy and high-risk disease in follicular thyroid tumors. The expression levels of 26 potential markers of malignancy were determined in a panel of 75 follicular thyroid tumors by a TaqMan quantitative RT-PCR approach. Logistic regression analysis (LRA) was used for gene selection and generation of diagnostic and prognostic algorithms. An algorithm based on the expression levels of five genes (TERT, TFF3, PPARγ, CITED1, and EGR2) could effectively predict high-risk disease with a specificity of 98.5%. The metastatic potential could be predicted in all four cases with apparently benign or minimally invasive (MI) disease at the time of diagnosis, but poor long-term outcome. In addition, a second model was produced by implementing two genes (TERT and TFF3), which was able to distinguish adenomas from de facto carcinomas. When this model was tested in an independent series of atypical adenomas (AFTA) and MI-FTCs, 16 out of 17 AFTAs were classified as ‘benign’, while MI-FTCs with vascular invasion (sometimes referred to as ‘moderately invasive’) and/or large tumor size tended to classify in the ‘malignant’ group. The reported models can be the foundation for the development of reliable preoperative diagnostic and prognostic tests that can guide the therapeutic approach of follicular thyroid neoplasms with indeterminate cytology.