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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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Susanne Singer, Susan Jordan, Laura D Locati, Monica Pinto, Iwona M Tomaszewska, Cláudia Araújo, Eva Hammerlid, E Vidhubala, Olga Husson, Naomi Kiyota, Christine Brannan, Dina Salem, Eva M Gamper, Juan Ignacio Arraras, Georgios Ioannidis, Guy Andry, Johanna Inhestern, Vincent Grégoire, Lisa Licitra, and on behalf of the EORTC Quality of Life Group, the EORTC Head and Neck Cancer Group, and the EORTC Endocrine Task Force

The purpose of the study was to pilot-test a questionnaire measuring health-related quality of life (QoL) in thyroid cancer patients to be used with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) core questionnaire EORTC QLQ-C30. A provisional questionnaire with 47 items was administered to patients treated for thyroid cancer within the last 2 years. Patients were interviewed about time and help needed to complete the questionnaire, and whether they found the items understandable, confusing or annoying. Items were kept in the questionnaire if they fulfilled pre-defined criteria: relevant to the patients, easy to understand, not confusing, few missing values, neither floor nor ceiling effects, and high variance. A total of 182 thyroid cancer patients in 15 countries participated (n = 115 with papillary, n = 31 with follicular, n = 22 with medullary, n = 6 with anaplastic, and n = 8 with other types of thyroid cancer). Sixty-six percent of the patients needed 15 min or less to complete the questionnaire. Of the 47 items, 31 fulfilled the predefined criteria and were kept unchanged, 14 were removed, and 2 were changed. Shoulder dysfunction was mentioned by 5 patients as missing and an item covering this issue was added. To conclude, the EORTC quality of life module for thyroid cancer (EORTC QLQ-THY34) is ready for the final validation phase IV.

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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.

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Sunmi Park, Mark C Willingham, Jun Qi, and Sheue-Yann Cheng

Compelling epidemiological evidence shows a strong positive correlation of obesity with thyroid cancer. In vivo studies have provided molecular evidence that high-fat-diet-induced obesity promotes thyroid cancer progression by aberrantly activating leptin-JAK2-STAT3 signaling in a mouse model of thyroid cancer (Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice). The Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mouse expresses a dominantly negative thyroid hormone receptor β (denoted as PV) and a deletion of one single allele of the Pten gene. The Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mouse spontaneously develops follicular thyroid cancer, which allows its use as a preclinical mouse model to test potential therapeutics. We recently showed that inhibition of STAT3 activity by a specific inhibitor markedly delays thyroid cancer progression in high-fat-diet-induced obese Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice (HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice). Further, metformin, a widely used antidiabetic drug, blocks invasion and metastasis, but not thyroid tumor growth in HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice. To improve efficacy in reducing thyroid tumor growth, we treated HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ with JQ1, a potent inhibitor of the activity of bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) and with metformin. We found that the combined treatment synergistically suppressed thyroid tumor growth by attenuating STAT3 and ERK signaling, resulting in decreased anti-apoptotic key regulators such as Mcl-1, Bcl-2 and survivin and increased pro-apoptotic regulators such as Bim, BAD and cleave caspase 3. Furthermore, combined treatment of JQ1 and metformin reduced cMyc protein levels to suppress vascular invasion, anaplasia and lung metastasis. These findings indicate that combined treatment is more effective than metformin alone and suggest a novel treatment modality for obesity-activated thyroid cancer.

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Muhammad Yasir Asghar, Tero Viitanen, Kati Kemppainen, and Kid Törnquist

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is the most aggressive form of human thyroid cancer, lacking any effective treatment. Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptors and human ether-a′-go-go-related gene (HERG (KCNH2)) potassium channels are important modulators of cell migration. In this study, we have shown that the S1P1–3 receptors are expressed in C643 and THJ-16T human ATC cell lines, both at mRNA and protein level. S1P inhibited migration of these cells and of follicular FTC-133 thyroid cancer cells. Using the S1P1,3 inhibitor VPC-23019, the S1P2 inhibitor JTE-013, and the S1P2 receptor siRNA, we showed that the effect was mediated through S1P2. Treatment of the cells with the Rho inhibitor C3 transferase abolished the effect of S1P on migration. S1P attenuated Rac activity, and inhibiting Rac decreased migration. Sphingosine kinase inhibitor enhanced basal migration of cells, and addition of exogenous S1P inhibited migration. C643 cells expressed a nonconducting HERG protein, and S1P decreased HERG protein expression. The HERG blocker E-4031 decreased migration. Interestingly, downregulating HERG protein with siRNA decreased the basal migration. In experiments using HEK cells overexpressing HERG, we showed that S1P decreased channel protein expression and current and that S1P attenuated migration of the cells. We conclude that S1P attenuates migration of C643 ATC cells by activating S1P2 and the Rho pathway. The attenuated migration is also, in part, dependent on a S1P-induced decrease of HERG protein.