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C Verdelli, L Avagliano, P Creo, V Guarnieri, A Scillitani, L Vicentini, G B Steffano, E Beretta, L Soldati, E Costa, A Spada, G P Bulfamante, and S Corbetta

Components of the tumour microenvironment initiate and promote cancer development. In this study, we investigated the stromal component of parathyroid neoplasia. Immunohistochemistry for alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) showed an abundant periacinar distribution of α-SMA+ cells in normal parathyroid glands (n=3). This pattern was progressively lost in parathyroid adenomas (PAds; n=6) where α-SMA+cells were found to surround new microvessels, as observed in foetal parathyroid glands (n=2). Moreover, in atypical adenomas (n=5) and carcinomas (n=4), α-SMA+ cells disappeared from the parenchyma and accumulated in the capsula and fibrous bands. At variance with normal glands, parathyroid tumours (n=37) expressed high levels of fibroblast-activation protein (FAP) transcripts, a marker of tumour-associated fibroblasts. We analysed the ability of PAd-derived cells to activate fibroblasts using human bone-marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs). PAd-derived cells induced a significant increase in FAP and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) mRNA levels in co-cultured hBM-MSCs. Furthermore, the role of the calcium-sensing receptor (CASR) and of the CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway in the PAd-induced activation of hBM-MSCs was investigated. Treatment of co-cultures of hBM-MSCs and PAd-derived cells with the CXCR4 inhibitor AMD3100 reduced the stimulated VEGFA levels, while CASR activation by the R568 agonist was ineffective. PAd-derived cells co-expressing parathyroid hormone (PTH)/CXCR4 and PTH/CXCL12 were identified by FACS, suggesting a paracrine/autocrine signalling. Finally, CXCR4 blockade by AMD3100 reduced PTH gene expression levels in PAd-derived cells. In conclusion, i) PAd-derived cells activated cells of mesenchymal origin; ii) PAd-associated fibroblasts were involved in tumuor neoangiogenesis and iii) CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway was expressed and active in PAd cells, likely contributing to parathyroid tumour neoangiogenesis and PTH synthesis modulation.

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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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William H Chong, Alfredo A Molinolo, Clara C Chen, and Michael T Collins

Tumor-induced osteomalacia (TIO) is a rare and fascinating paraneoplastic syndrome in which patients present with bone pain, fractures, and muscle weakness. The cause is high blood levels of the recently identified phosphate and vitamin D-regulating hormone, fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23). In TIO, FGF23 is secreted by mesenchymal tumors that are usually benign, but are typically very small and difficult to locate. FGF23 acts primarily at the renal tubule and impairs phosphate reabsorption and 1α-hydroxylation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, leading to hypophosphatemia and low levels of 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D. A step-wise approach utilizing functional imaging (F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and octreotide scintigraphy) followed by anatomical imaging (computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging), and, if needed, selective venous sampling with measurement of FGF23 is usually successful in locating the tumors. For tumors that cannot be located, medical treatment with phosphate supplements and active vitamin D (calcitriol or alphacalcidiol) is usually successful; however, the medical regimen can be cumbersome and associated with complications. This review summarizes the current understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease and provides guidance in evaluating and treating these patients. Novel imaging modalities and medical treatments, which hold promise for the future, are also reviewed.

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Srilatha Swami, Aruna V Krishnan, Lihong Peng, Johan Lundqvist, and David Feldman

Calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3), the hormonally active metabolite of vitamin D, exerts its anti-proliferative activity in breast cancer (BCa) cells by multiple mechanisms including the downregulation of the expression of estrogen receptor α (ER). We analyzed an ∼3.5 kb ER promoter sequence and demonstrated the presence of two potential negative vitamin D response elements (nVDREs), a newly identified putative nVDRE upstream at −2488 to −2473 bp (distal nVDRE) and a previously published sequence (proximal nVDRE) at −94 to −70 bp proximal to the P1 start site. Transactivation analysis using ER promoter deletion constructs and heterologous promoter–reporter constructs revealed that both nVDREs functioned to mediate calcitriol transrepression. In the electrophoretic mobility shift assay, the vitamin D receptor (VDR) showed strong binding to both nVDREs in the presence of calcitriol, and the chromatin immunoprecipitation assay demonstrated the recruitment of the VDR to the distal nVDRE site. Mutations in the 5′ hexameric DNA sequence of the distal nVDRE resulted in the loss of calcitriol-mediated transrepression and the inhibition of protein–DNA complex formation, demonstrating the importance of these nucleotides in VDR DNA binding and transrepression. A putative nuclear factor-Y (NFY) binding site, identified within the distal nVDRE, led to the findings that NFY bound to the distal nVDRE site interfered with the binding of the VDR at the site and reduced calcitriol-mediated transrepression. In conclusion, the ER promoter region contains two negative VDREs that act in concert to bind to the VDR and both nVDREs are required for the maximal inhibition of ER expression by calcitriol. The suppression of ER expression and estrogen-mediated signaling by calcitriol in BCa cells suggests that vitamin D may be useful in the treatment of ER+ BCa.

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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.

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J Di Cristofaro, M Silvy, A Lanteaume, M Marcy, P Carayon, and C De Micco

Immunocytochemistry (ICC) of thyroid peroxidase (TPO) using the monoclonal antibody MoAb47 has been used as malignancy marker on thyroid fine needle aspiration. However, little is known about the fate of TPO in thyroid carcinoma. We performed a qualitative PCR (Q-PCR) analysis to measure the expression of variants of tpo mRNA in 13 normal tissue samples, 30 benign tumors (BT), 21 follicular carcinomas (FC), 20 classical papillary carcinomas (PCc), 12 follicular variants of papillary carcinomas (PCfv) and nine oncocytic carcinomas (OC). We also studied mutations involving the ras, Braf, ret or pax8 genes. Results of Q-PCR were closely correlated with those of ICC (P < 0.0001; R = 0.59) and showed that overall tpo expression was lower in all carcinomas than in normal and BT (P < 0.05). The ratio tpo2 or tpo3 to tpo1 was inversed in follicular tumors. Genetic mutations were observed in 90% of PCc, 61.9% of FC, 41.7% of PCfv, 0% of OC and 10% in BT. pax8-ppar γ1 rearrangement was correlated with qualitative changes in tpo mRNA (P < 0.01). These results confirmed the decrease of TPO expression in 97% of thyroid carcinomas regardless of histological type and the overexpression of shorter splice variants in follicular tumors. Both reduction in quantity of TPO and impairment of its maturation process could account for the atypical immunohistochemical reaction of MoAb47 with TPO.

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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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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.