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Jennifer A Woyach and Manisha H Shah

The spectrum of thyroid cancers ranges from one of the most indolent to one of the most aggressive solid tumors identified. Conventional therapies for thyroid cancers are based on the histologic type of thyroid cancers such as papillary or follicular thyroid cancer (differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC)), medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), or anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC). While surgery is one of the key treatments for all such types of thyroid cancers, additional therapies vary. Effective targeted therapy for DTC is a decades-old practice with systemic therapies of thyroid stimulating hormone suppression and radioactive iodine therapy. However, for the iodine-refractory DTC, MTC, and ATC there is no effective systemic standard of care treatment. Recent advances in understanding pathogenesis of DTC and development of molecular targeted therapy have dramatically transformed the field of clinical research in thyroid cancer. Over the last five years, incredible progress has been made and phases I–III clinical trials have been conducted in various types of thyroid cancers with some remarkable results that has made an impact on lives of patients with thyroid cancer. Such history-making events have boosted enthusiasm and interest among researchers, clinicians, patients, and sponsors and we anticipate ongoing efforts to develop more effective and safe therapies for thyroid cancer.

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Sissy M Jhiang and Jennifer A Sipos

Radioiodine (131I) has been used to ablate thyroid tissue not removed by surgery or to treat differentiated thyroid cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body for the past 80 years. However, the Na+/I- symporter (NIS), which mediates active iodide uptake into thyroid follicular cells, is also expressed in several non-thyroidal tissues. This NIS expression permits 131I accumulation and radiation damage in these non-target tissues, which accounts for the adverse effects of radioiodine therapy. We will review the data regarding the expression, function, and regulation of NIS in non-thyroidal tissues. We will explain the seemingly paradoxical adverse effects induced by 131I: the self-limited gastrointestinal adverse effects in contrast to the permanent salivary dysfunction that is seen after 131I therapy. We propose that prospective studies are needed to uncover the time-course of pathological processes underlying development and progression or ultimate resolution of 131I-induced salivary ductal obstruction and nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Finally, preventive measures and early therapeutic interventions that can be applied potentially to eliminate or alleviate long-term radioiodine adverse effects will be discussed.

Free access

Devora Champa, Marika A Russo, Xiao-Hui Liao, Samuel Refetoff, Ronald A Ghossein, and Antonio Di Cristofano

Poorly differentiated tumors of the thyroid gland (PDTC) are generally characterized by a poor prognosis due to their resistance to available therapeutic approaches. The relative rarity of these tumors is a major obstacle to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor aggressiveness and drug resistance, and consequently to the development of novel therapies. By simultaneously activating Kras and deleting p53 (Trp53) in thyroid follicular cells, we have generated a novel mouse model that develops papillary thyroid cancer invariably progressing to PDTC. In several cases, tumors further progress to anaplastic carcinomas. The poorly differentiated tumors are morphologically and functionally similar to their human counterparts and depend on MEK/ERK signaling for proliferation. Using primary carcinomas as well as carcinoma-derived cell lines, we also demonstrate that these tumors are intrinsically resistant to apoptosis due to high levels of expression of the Bcl2 family members, Bcl2a1 (Bcl2a1a) and Mcl1, and can be effectively targeted by Obatoclax, a small-molecule pan-inhibitor of the Bcl2 family. Furthermore, we show that Bcl2 family inhibition synergizes with MEK inhibition as well as with doxorubicin in inducing cell death. Thus, our studies in a novel, relevant mouse model have uncovered a promising druggable feature of aggressive thyroid cancers.

Free access

Shih-Ping Cheng, Chien-Liang Liu, Ming-Jen Chen, Ming-Nan Chien, Ching-Hsiang Leung, Chi-Hsin Lin, Yi-Chiung Hsu, and Jie-Jen Lee

CD74, the invariant chain of major histocompatibility complex class II, is also a receptor for macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). CD74 and MIF have been associated with tumor progression and metastasis in hematologic and solid tumors. In this study, we found that 60 and 65% of papillary thyroid cancers were positive for CD74 and MIF immunohistochemical staining respectively. Anaplastic thyroid cancer was negative for MIF, but mostly positive for CD74 expression. Normal thyroid tissue and follicular adenomas were negative for CD74 expression. CD74 expression in papillary thyroid cancer was associated with larger tumor size (P=0.043), extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.021), advanced TNM stage (P=0.006), and higher MACIS score (P=0.026). No clinicopathological parameter was associated with MIF expression. Treatment with anti-CD74 antibody in thyroid cancer cells inhibited cell growth, colony formation, cell migration and invasion, and vascular endothelial growth factor secretion. In contrast, treatment with recombinant MIF induced an increase in cell invasion. Anti-CD74 treatment reduced AKT phosphorylation and stimulated AMPK activation. Our findings suggest that CD74 overexpression in thyroid cancer is associated with advanced tumor stage and may serve as a therapeutic target.

Free access

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.

Free access

Urbain Weyemi, Bernard Caillou, Monique Talbot, Rabii Ameziane-El-Hassani, Ludovic Lacroix, Odile Lagent-Chevallier, Abir Al Ghuzlan, Dirk Roos, Jean-Michel Bidart, Alain Virion, Martin Schlumberger, and Corinne Dupuy

NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) belongs to the NOX family that generates reactive oxygen species (ROS). Function and tissue distribution of NOX4 have not yet been entirely clarified. To date, in the thyroid gland, only DUOX1/2 NOX systems have been described. NOX4 mRNA expression, as shown by real-time PCR, was present in normal thyroid tissue, regulated by TSH and significantly increased in differentiated cancer tissues. TSH increased the protein level of NOX4 in human thyroid primary culture and NOX4-dependent ROS generation. NOX4 immunostaining was detected in normal and pathologic thyroid tissues. In normal thyroid tissue, staining was heterogeneous and mostly found in activated columnar thyrocytes but absent in quiescent flat cells. Papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas displayed more homogeneous staining. The p22phox protein that forms a heterodimeric enzyme complex with NOX4 displayed an identical cellular expression pattern and was also positively regulated by TSH. ROS may have various biological effects, depending on the site of production. Intracellular NOX4–p22phox localization suggests a role in cytoplasmic redox signaling, in contrast to the DUOX localization at the apical membrane that corresponds to an extracellular H2O2 production. Increased NOX4–p22phox in cancer might be related to a higher proliferation rate and tumor progression but a role in the development of tumors has to be further studied and established in the future.

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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.

Free access

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.

Free access

Aruna V Krishnan and David Feldman

Calcitriol, the hormonally active form of vitamin D, exerts multiple anti-proliferative and pro-differentiating actions including cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis in many malignant cells, and the hormone is currently being evaluated in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent. Recent research reveals that calcitriol also exhibits multiple anti-inflammatory effects. First, calcitriol inhibits the synthesis and biological actions of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs) by three mechanisms: i) suppression of the expression of cyclooxygenase-2, the enzyme that synthesizes PGs; ii) up-regulation of the expression of 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase, the enzyme that inactivates PGs; and iii) down-regulation of the expression of PG receptors that are essential for PG signaling. The combination of calcitriol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs results in a synergistic inhibition of the growth of prostate cancer (PCa) cells and offers a potential therapeutic strategy for PCa. Second, calcitriol increases the expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 5 in prostate cells resulting in the subsequent inhibition of p38 stress kinase signaling and the attenuation of the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Third, calcitriol also exerts anti-inflammatory activity in PCa through the inhibition of nuclear factor-κB signaling that results in potent anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects. Other important direct effects of calcitriol as well as the consequences of its anti-inflammatory effects include the inhibition of tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. We hypothesize that these anti-inflammatory actions, in addition to the other known anti-cancer effects of calcitriol, play an important role in its potential use as a therapeutic agent for PCa. Calcitriol or its analogs may have utility as chemopreventive agents and should be evaluated in clinical trials in PCa patients with early or precancerous disease.

Free access

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.