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De-tao Yin, Wenxun Wu, Mingchuang Li, Qi-en Wang, Hongqiang Li, Yongfei Wang, Yifeng Tang, and Mingzhao Xing

The expression of the Dickkopf homolog 3 (DKK3) gene is downregulated in some human cancers, suggesting a possible tumor suppressor role of this gene. The role and regulation of DKK3 in thyroid cancer have not been examined. In this study, we explored the relationship of promoter methylation with the inactivation of DKK3 and tumor behaviors in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). We used methylation-specific PCR and RT-PCR to examine the promoter methylation and expression of DKK3 and tumor characteristics. We found mRNA expression of DKK3 in 44.9% of the PTC tissue samples vs 100% of the matched normal thyroid tissue samples (P<0.01). In contrast, an opposite distribution pattern of DKK3 gene methylation was observed; specifically, 38.8% of the PTC tissue samples vs 0% of the matched normal thyroid tissue samples harbored DKK3 methylation. An inverse correlation between the promoter methylation and mRNA expression of DKK3 in PTC tissue samples was also observed. Moreover, we also found an inverse correlation between DKK3 expression and some aggressive pathological characteristics of PTC, including high TNM stages and lymph node metastasis, but a positive correlation between DKK3 promoter hypermethylation and pathological aggressiveness of the tumor. Treatment of the PTC cell line TPC-1 with the demethylating agent 5-azaC reduced DKK3 promoter methylation and enhanced its expression, establishing functionally the impact of DKK3 methylation on its expression. Our data thus for the first time demonstrate that the DKK3 gene is a potential tumor suppressor gene in thyroid cancer and that aberrant promoter methylation is an important mechanism for its downregulation, which may play a role in the tumorigenesis and aggressiveness of PTC.

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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), BRAFV600E 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, BRAFV600E mutation, and disease persistence/recurrence than the WT TERT.

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Xiaoli Liu, Justin Bishop, Yuan Shan, Sara Pai, Dingxie Liu, Avaniyapuram Kannan Murugan, Hui Sun, Adel K El-Naggar, and Mingzhao Xing

Mutations 1 295 228 C>T and 1 295 250 C>T (termed C228T and C250T respectively), corresponding to −124 C>T and −146 C>T from the translation start site in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene, have recently been reported in human cancers, but not in thyroid cancers yet. We explored these mutations in thyroid cancers by genomic sequencing of a large number of primary tumor samples. We found the C228T mutation in 0 of 85 (0.0%) benign thyroid tumors, 30 of 257 (11.7%) papillary thyroid cancers (PTC), 9 of 79 (11.4%) follicular thyroid cancers (FTC), 3 of 8 (37.5%) poorly differentiated thyroid cancers (PDTC), 23 of 54 (42.6%) anaplastic thyroid cancers (ATC), and 8 of 12 (66.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. The C250T mutation was uncommon, but mutually exclusive with the C228T mutation, and the two mutations were collectively found in 11 of 79 (13.9%) FTC, 25 of 54 (46.3%) ATC, and 11 of 12 (91.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. Among PTC variants, the C228T mutation was found in 4 of 13 (30.8%) tall-cell PTC (TCPTC), 23 of 187 (12.3%) conventional PTC, and 2 of 56 (3.6%) follicular variant PTC samples. No TERT mutation was found in 16 medullary thyroid cancer samples. The C228T mutation was associated with the BRAF V600E mutation in PTC, being present in 19 of 104 (18.3%) BRAF mutation-positive PTC vs 11 of 153 (7.2%) the BRAF mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). Conversely, BRAF mutation was found in 19 of 30 (63.3%) C228T mutation-positive PTC vs 85 of 227 (37.4%) C228T mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). We thus for the first time, to our knowledge, demonstrate TERT promoter mutations in thyroid cancers, that are particularly prevalent in the aggressive thyroid cancers TCPTC, PDTC, ATC and BRAF mutation-positive PTC, revealing a novel genetic background for thyroid cancers.

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Yangang Wang, Meiju Ji, Wei Wang, Zhimin Miao, Peng Hou, Xinyan Chen, Feng Xu, Guangwu Zhu, Xianlu Sun, Yujun Li, Steven Condouris, Dingxie Liu, Shengli Yan, Jie Pan, and Mingzhao Xing

The relationship among BRAF mutation, platelet counts, and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) with respect to clinicopathological outcomes of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) may play a role in PTC pathogenesis but remains undefined. We examined the T1799A BRAF mutation by direct genomic DNA sequencing in 108 primary PTC samples from a Chinese cohort and analyzed its relationship with clinicopathological, hematological, and other laboratory results as well as the levels of expression of PDGF in tumors. We found that the BRAF mutation was significantly associated with extrathyroidal invasion and advanced tumor stages III and IV. Specifically, extrathyroidal invasion was seen in 30/54 (56%) PTC with BRAF mutation versus 18/54 (33%) PTC without the mutation (P=0.02). Tumor stages III and IV were seen in 16/54 (30%) PTC with BRAF mutation versus 7/54 (13%) PTC without the mutation (P=0.04). The BRAF mutation was also significantly associated with a higher platelet count, with 249.28±53.76×109/l in the group of patients with BRAF mutation versus 207.79±58.98×109/l in the group without the mutation (P=0.001). An association of higher platelet accounts with extrathyroidal invasion was also seen, with 242.66±51.85×109/l in patients with extrathyroidal invasion versus 218.49±59.10×109/l in patients without extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.03). The BRAF T1799A-positive PTC tissues harbored a significantly higher level of PDGF-B than BRAF T1799A-negative PTC tissues. The data suggest that the BRAF T1799A mutation is associated with aggressive pathological outcomes of PTC in which high platelet counts and increased PDGF production may play a role.