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Thomas A Werner, Inga Nolten, Levent Dizdar, Jasmin C Riemer, Sina C Schütte, Pablo E Verde, Katharina Raba, Matthias Schott, Wolfram T Knoefel, and Andreas Krieg

Follicular thyroid cancer’s (FTC) excellent long-term prognosis is mainly dependent on postoperative radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment. However, once the tumour becomes refractory, the 10-year disease-specific survival rate drops below 10%. The aim of our study was to evaluate the prognostic and biological role of the TRAIL system in FTC and to elucidate the influence of small-molecule-mediated antagonisation of inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) on TRAIL sensitivity in vitro. Tissue microarrays were constructed from forty-four patients with histologically confirmed FTC. Expression levels of TRAIL and its receptors were correlated with clinicopathological data and overall as well as recurrence-free survival. Non-iodine-retaining FTC cell lines TT2609-bib2 and FTC133 were treated with recombinant human TRAIL alone and in combination with Smac mimetics GDC-0152 or Birinapant. TRAIL-R2/DR5 as well as TRAIL-R3/DcR1 and TRAIL-R4/DcR2 were significantly higher expressed in advanced tumour stages. Both decoy receptors were negatively associated with recurrence-free and overall survival. TRAIL-R4/DcR2 additionally proved to be an independent negative prognostic marker in FTC (HR = 1.446, 95% CI: 1.144–1.826; P < 0.001). In vitro, the co-incubation of Birinapant or GDC-0152 with rh-TRAIL-sensitised FTC cell lines for TRAIL-induced apoptosis, through degradation of cIAP1/2. The TRAIL system plays an important role in FTC tumour biology. Its decoy receptors are associated with poor prognosis as well as earlier recurrence. The specific degradation of cIAP1/2 sensitises FTC cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis and might highlight a new point of attack in patients with RAI refractory disease.

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C Passler, C Scheuba, G Prager, K Kaczirek, K Kaserer, G Zettinig, and B Niederle

Papillary (PTC) and follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) are known as differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC). Nevertheless, according to the UICC/AJCC (TNM) classification PTC and FTC are frequently analyzed as one cancer. The aim of this study is to show differences in outcome and specific prognostic factors in an iodine-replete endemic goiter region. Six hundred and three patients with DTC treated within a 35-year-period were retrospectively analyzed with respect to carcinoma-specific survival. Prognostic factors were tested for their significance using univariate and multivariate analysis. The histological type (PTC versus FTC) was found to be a highly significant factor - carcinoma-specific survival both in univariate (P<0.001) and multivariate analyses (P=0.003) was significantly different. Univariate analysis revealed patients' age, extra-thyroid tumor spread, lymph node and distant metastases, increasing tumor size, and the tall cell variant to be significant prognostic factors for PTC patients. Age > or =45 years, positive lymph nodes and increasing tumor size were confirmed as independent prognostic factors. Univariate analysis of FTC patients revealed age at presentation, gender, extrathyroidal tumor spread, lymph node and distant metastases, increasing tumor size, multifocality, widely invasive tumor growth and oxyphilic variant to be factors bearing prognostic significance. The presence of distant metastases and increasing tumor size could be identified as independent prognostic factors for FTC patients. This study shows distinctive differences in prognostic factors of PTC and FTC: independent factors predicting poor prognosis are age > or =45 years, positive lymph nodes and increasing tumor size for PTC, and distant metastases and increasing tumor size for FTC. PTC and FTC patients should be analyzed and reported separately.

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Kirk Jensen, Athanasios Bikas, Aneeta Patel, Yevgeniya Kushchayeva, John Costello, Dennis McDaniel, Kenneth Burman, and Vasyl Vasko

The HIV protease inhibitor Nelfinavir (NFV) inhibits PI3K/AKT and MAPK/ERK signaling pathways, emerging targets in thyroid cancers. We examined the effects of NFV on cancer cells that derived from follicular (FTC), papillary (PTC) and anaplastic (ATC) thyroid cancers. NFV (1–20 µM) was tested in FTC133, BCPAP and SW1736 cell lines. The effects of NFV on cell proliferation were determined in vitro using real-time microscopy and by flow cytometry. DNA damage, apoptotic cell death and expression of molecular markers of epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) were determined by Western blot and real-time PCR. Real-time imaging demonstrated that NFV (10 µM) increased the time required for the cell passage through the phases of cell cycle and induced DNA fragmentation. Growth inhibitory effects of NFV were associated with the accumulation of cells in G0/G1 phase, downregulation of cyclin D1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4). NFV also induced the expression of γH2AX and p53BP1 indicating DNA damage. Treatment with NFV (20 µM) resulted in caspase-3 cleavage in all examined cells. NFV (20 µM) decreased the levels of total and p-AKT in PTEN-deficient FTC133 cells. NFV had no significant effects on total ERK and p-ERK in BRAF-positive BCPAP and SW1736 cells. NFV had no effects on the expression of EMT markers (Twist, Vimentin, E- and N-Cadherin), but inhibited the migration and decreased the abilities of thyroid cancer cells to survive in non-adherent conditions. We conclude that NFV inhibits proliferation and induces DNA damage in thyroid cancer cell lines. Our in vitro data suggest that NFV has a potential to become a new thyroid cancer therapeutic agent.

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Dara O Kavanagh, Marie McIlroy, Eddie Myers, Fiona Bane, Thomas B Crotty, E McDermott, Arnold D Hill, and Leonie S Young

Epidemiological, clinical, and molecular studies suggest a role for oestrogen in thyroid cancer. How oestrogen mediates its effects and the consequence of it on clinical outcome has not been fully elucidated. The participation of coregulatory proteins in modulating oestrogen receptor (ER) function and input of crosstalk with the tyrosine kinase receptor HER2 was investigated. Oestrogen induced cell proliferation in the follicular thyroid cancer (FTC)-133 cells, but not in the anaplastic 8305C cell line. Knockdown of the coactivator steroid receptor coactivator (SRC)-1 inhibited FTC-133 basal, but not oestrogen induced, cell proliferation. Oestrogen also increased protein expression of SRC-1 and the ER target gene cyclin D1 in the FTC-133 cell line. ERα, ERβ, the coregulatory proteins SRC-1 and nuclear corepressor (NCoR), and the tyrosine kinase receptor HER2 were localised by immunohistochemistry and immnofluorescence in paraffin-embedded tissue from thyroid tumour patients (n=111). ERα was colocalised with both SRC-1 and NCoR to the nuclei of the tumour epithelial cells. Expression of ERα and NCoR was found predominantly in non-anaplastic tumours and was significantly associated with well-differentiated tumours and reduced incidence of disease recurrence. In non-anaplastic tumours, HER2 was significantly associated with SRC-1, and these proteins were associated with poorly differentiated tumours, capsular invasion and disease recurrence. Totally, 87% of anaplastic tumours were positive for SRC-1. Kaplan–Meier estimates of disease-free survival indicated that in thyroid cancer, SRC-1 strongly correlates with reduced disease-free survival (P<0.001), whereas NCoR predicted increased survival (P<0.001). These data suggest opposing roles for the coregulators SRC-1 and NCoR in thyroid tumour progression.

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Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre and Pilar Santisteban

Well-differentiated thyroid cancer has in general terms a very good outcome. It has a very slow growth rate and, although it metastasises at a relatively high frequency, it has very high survival rates. Whereas the prevalence of nodular thyroid disease worldwide is high, malignant conversion from benign thyroid nodules is rare. Treatment of thyroid cancer is usually successful, but we still do not have effective therapies for patients with invasive or metastatic thyroid cancer if the disease does not concentrate radioiodine and it is not surgically resectable. On the other hand, from the same thyroid cell, one of the most aggressive human tumours can arise – undifferentiated or anaplastic thyroid carcinoma – leading to death in a few months. What features of this malignancy account for such paradoxical behaviour? The most common type of thyroid cancer – papillary thyroid carcinoma – stands out among solid tumours because many of the tumour-initiating events have been identified. All of them function in a single pathway – the RTK/RAS/RAF/MAPK pathway – and obey an ‘exclusivity principle’: one and only one component of the pathway is mutated in a single tumour. This highlights the requirement of this signal transduction pathway for the transformation to thyroid cancer and paves the way to targeted therapies against a tumour with a mutation in a known gene or any gene upstream of the target. However, it is also interesting to underscore the differences among the tumours arising from the different mutations. Studies in vitro and in vivo, including genomic profiling and genetically engineered mouse models, have clearly shown that each oncoprotein exerts its own oncogenic drive, conferring a distinct biological behaviour on thyroid tumours. In this review, we attempt to summarise the most recent advances in thyroid follicular cell-derived cancers research and their potential clinical impact that may change the management of thyroid cancer in the near future.

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D Deandreis, A Al Ghuzlan, S Leboulleux, L Lacroix, J P Garsi, M Talbot, J Lumbroso, E Baudin, B Caillou, J M Bidart, and M Schlumberger

The aim of this study is to search for relationships between histology, radioiodine (131I) uptake, fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) uptake, and disease outcome in patients with metastatic thyroid cancer. Eighty patients with metastatic thyroid cancer (34 males, 46 females, mean age at the time of the diagnosis of metastases: 55 years) were retrospectively studied. All patients were treated with radioactive iodine and evaluated by FDG-positron emission tomography (PET). Primary tumor tissue sample was available in all cases. Forty-five patients (56%) had a papillary, 12 (15%) a follicular, and 23 (29%) a poorly differentiated thyroid cancer. Cellular atypias, necrosis, mitoses, thyroid capsule infiltration, and vascular invasion were frequently detected (70, 44, 52, 60, and 71% respectively). Metastases disclosed FDG uptake in 58 patients (72%) and 131I uptake in 37 patients (45%). FDG uptake was the only significant prognostic factor for survival (P=0.02). The maximum standardized uptake value and the number of FDG avid lesions were also related to prognosis (P=0.03 and 0.009). Age at the time of the diagnosis of metastases (P=0.001) and the presence of necrosis (P=0.002) were independent predictive factors of FDG uptake. Radioiodine uptake was prognostic for stable disease (P=0.001) and necrosis for progressive disease at 1 year (P=0.001). Histological subtype was not correlated with in vivo tumor metabolism and prognosis. In conclusion, FDG uptake in metastatic thyroid cancer is highly prognostic for survival. Histological subtype alone does not correlate with 131I/FDG uptake pattern and patient outcome. Well-differentiated thyroid cancer presenting histological features such as necrosis and FDG uptake on PET scan should be considered aggressive differentiated cancers.

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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.

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J Lado-Abeal, R Celestino, S B Bravo, M E R Garcia-Rendueles, J de la Calzada, I Castro, P Castro, C Espadinha, F Palos, P Soares, C V Alvarez, M Sobrinho-Simões, and J Cameselle-Teijeiro

Our main objective was to search for mutations in candidate genes and for paired box gene 8–peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PAX8–PPARγ) rearrangement in a well-differentiated angioinvasive follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) causing hyperthyroidism. DNA and RNA were extracted from the patient's thyroid tumor, as well as ‘normal’ thyroid tissue, and from peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) of the patient, her daughter, and two siblings. Nuclear isolation was extracted from the patient's tumor, ’normal’ thyroid tissue, PBLs, and uterine leiomyoma tissue. TSH receptor (TSHR), RAS, and BRAF genes were sequenced. We searched for PAX8 PPAR γ in thyroid, PBL, and uterine leiomyoma samples from the patient and family members. Proliferative effects of detected mutants on non-transformed human thyrocytes cultures. An activating TSHR mutation, M453T, was detected in the tumor. PAX8 (exons 1 8 + 10) PPAR γ was found in all tested patient's tissues. A second rearrangement, PAX8 (exons 1 8) PPAR γ, was detected in the patient's normal thyroid tissue. Under deprived medium condition, co-transfection of PAX8 PPAR γ and TSHR M453T dramatically increased the number of thyrocytes, an effect that it was not observed with TSHR wild-type (WT); under complete medium conditions, co-transfection of PAX8 PPAR γ with either TSHR M453T or TSHR WT inhibited cell proliferation. We report a patient with hyperthyroidism due to a FTC bearing an activating TSHR mutation and PAX8 PPAR γ rearrangements. PAX8 PPAR γ was present as a mosaicism affecting tissues from endodermal and mesodermal origin. PAX8 PPAR γ and TSHR M453T inhibited or promoted thyrocyte proliferation depending on medium conditions. The activating TSHR mutation could promote in vivo FTC development in PAX8 PPAR γ-positive thyrocytes under poor blood supply with deprivation of growth factors but restraint the tumor growth when growth factors are supplied.

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Xiulong Xu, Helen Ding, Geetha Rao, Shalini Arora, Constantine P Saclarides, Joseph Esparaz, Paolo Gattuso, Carmen C Solorzano, and Richard A Prinz

The sonic hedgehog (SHH) pathway is activated in several types of malignancy and plays an important role in tumor cell proliferation and tumorigenesis. SHH binding to a 12-pass transmembrane receptor, Patched (PTCH), leads to freeing of Smoothened (SMO) and subsequent activation of GLI transcription factors. In the present study, we analyzed the expression of SHH, PTCH, SMO, and GLI1 in 31 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTA), 8 anaplastic thyroid carcinomas (ATC), and 51 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) by immunohistochemical staining. More than 65% of FTA, PTC, and ATC specimens stained positive for SHH, PTCH, SMO, and GLI. However, the expression of the genes encoding these four molecules did not correlate with any clinicopathologic parameters, including the age, gender, the status of BRAF gene mutation, tumor stage, local invasion, and metastasis. Three thyroid tumor cell lines (KAT-18, WRO82, and SW1736) all expressed the genes encoding these four molecules. 5-Bromo-2-deoxyuridine labeling and MTT cell proliferation assays revealed that cyclopamine (CP), an inhibitor of the SHH pathway, was able to inhibit the proliferation of KAT-18 and WRO82 cells more effectively than SW1736 cells. CP led to the arrest of cell cycle or apoptosis. Knockdown of SHH and GLI expression by miRNA constructs that target SHH or GLI mRNA in KAT-18 and SW1736 cells led to the inhibition of cell proliferation. Our results suggest that the SHH pathway is widely activated in thyroid neoplasms and may have potential as an early marker of thyroid cancer or as a potential therapeutic target for thyroid cancer treatment.

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Alessandro Antonelli, Silvia Martina Ferrari, Poupak Fallahi, Silvia Frascerra, Simona Piaggi, Stefania Gelmini, Cristiana Lupi, Michele Minuto, Piero Berti, Salvatore Benvenga, Fulvio Basolo, Claudio Orlando, and Paolo Miccoli

In papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs), oncogenes activate a transcriptional program including the upregulation of CXCL10 chemokine, which stimulates proliferation and invasion. Furthermore, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) activators thiazolidinediones (TZDs) modulate CXCL10 secretion in normal thyroid follicular cells (TFC), and inhibit PTC growth. Until now, no study has evaluated the effect of cytokines on CXCL10 secretion in PTCs, nor the effect of PPARγ activation. The combined effects of interferon γ (IFNγ) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) stimulation on CXCL10 secretion in primary cells from PTCs and TFC were tested. Furthermore, the effect of PPARγ activation by TZDs, on CXCL10 secretion and proliferation in these cell types was studied. In primary cultures of TFC and PTCs CXCL10 production was absent under basal conditions; a similar dose-dependent secretion of CXCL10 was induced by IFNγ in both cell types. TNFα alone induced a slight but significant CXCL10 secretion only in PTCs. The stimulation with IFNγ+TNFα induced a synergistic CXCL10 release in both cell types; however, a secretion more than ten times higher was induced in PTCs. Treatment of TFC with TZDs dose-dependently suppressed IFNγ+TNFα-induced CXCL10 release, while TZDs stimulated CXCL10 secretion in PTCs. A significant antiproliferative effect by TZDs was observed only in PTCs. In conclusion, a dysregulation of CXCL10 secretion has been shown in PTCs. In fact, a CXCL10 secretion more than ten times higher has been induced by IFNγ+TNFα in PTCs with respect to TFC. Moreover, TZDs inhibited CXCL10 secretion in TFC and stimulated it in PTCs. The effect of TZDs on CXCL10 was unrelated to the significant antiproliferative effect in PTCs.