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Maria Trovato, Alessandra Ulivieri, Roberto Dominici, Rosaria Maddalena Ruggeri, Enrica Vitarelli, Salvatore Benvenga, Gaetano Barresi, Francesco Trimarchi, Ercole Brunetti, Aldo Vecchione, Mario Andreoli, and Salvatore Sciacchitano

A careful pathological examination often reveals the presence of different lesions at various stages of tumor progression and invasion, even in those thyroid glands presenting with solitary nodules. Each thyroid lesion is composed of many different cell types, reflecting the marked heterogeneity of normal thyroid tissue. Among the different chromosome regions altered in thyroid tumors, 7q21 appears to be specifically involved in malignant tumors, especially of the follicular type. This study was conducted to analyze the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) pattern at 7q21 in pure populations of cells from each single lesion harbored in surgically removed thyroid glands, and to evaluate its clinical significance. One hundred and forty-two thyroid glands were examined, all showing, as a common trait, a goitrous appearance associated with one single lesion in 114 cases and with more than one in the remaining 28 cases. A total number of 318 lesions was analyzed, consisting of 142 goiters (TG), 48 hyperplasias (TH), 80 adenomas (TA) and 48 carcinomas (TC). Five different types of cells were isolated by laser capture microdissection from each lesion. DNA was analyzed by PCR and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in search of LOH affecting five microsatellite markers, D7S660, D7S630, D7S492, D7S657, and D7S689. We detected LOH at 7q21 not only in thyroid malignant tumors but also in benign lesions. Allelic loss occurred exclusively in dark nucleus and eosinophilic cytoplasm cells, commonly observed in the follicular type of lesions. In these types of lesions allelic loss frequency increases along with neoplastic transformation (9% in TG, 41% in TH, 68% in TA and 100% in TC), and is directly correlated with thyroid gland volume as well as with the presence of multiple lesions. The highest LOH rate was observed for D7S492, indicating that the recurrent region of deletion was localized at the corresponding genetic locus at 7q21.2, in the same position where the common fragile site FRA7E was previously mapped. LOH at this locus represents an early event in the development of follicular TC and is associated with intense growth of thyroid glands.

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Inga Mertens-Walker, Christine Bolitho, Robert C Baxter, and Deborah J Marsh

The gonadotropin hypothesis proposes that elevated serum gonadotropin levels may increase the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). We have studied the effect of treating EOC cell lines (OV207 and OVCAR-3) with FSH or LH. Both gonadotropins activated the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathway and increased cell migration that was inhibited by the MAPK 1 inhibitor PD98059. Both extra- and intracellular calcium ion signalling were implicated in gonadotropin-induced ERK1/2 activation as treatment with either the calcium chelator EGTA or an inhibitor of intracellular calcium release, dantrolene, inhibited gonadotropin-induced ERK1/2 activation. Verapamil was also inhibitory, indicating that gonadotropins activate calcium influx via L-type voltage-dependent calcium channels. The cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway was not involved in the mediation of gonadotropin action in these cells as gonadotropins did not increase intracellular cAMP formation and inhibition of PKA did not affect gonadotropin-induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Activation of ERK1/2 was inhibited by the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor GF 109203X as well as by the PKCδ inhibitor rottlerin, and downregulation of PKCδ was inhibited by small interfering RNA (siRNA), highlighting the importance of PKCδ in the gonadotropin signalling cascade. Furthermore, in addition to inhibition by PD98059, gonadotropin-induced ovarian cancer cell migration was also inhibited by verapamil, GF 109203X and rottlerin. Similarly, gonadotropin-induced proliferation was inhibited by PD98059, verapamil, GF 109203X and PKCδ siRNA. Taken together, these results demonstrate that gonadotropins induce both ovarian cancer cell migration and proliferation by activation of ERK1/2 signalling in a calcium- and PKCδ-dependent manner.

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R W Blamey

Introduction Oophorectomy has been a proven treatment for breast cancer for just 100 years (Beatson 1896) but over the last ten ovarian suppression has become available, by using luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists. When the agent ICI 118630 (now Zoladex; Zeneca, Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK), was introduced in the early 1980s, it was up for experiment as to whether it could replace oophorectomy and ovarian ablation. An LHRH agonist, it was known from experiments to block follicular activity so as to reduce plasma oestradiol and to decrease the size of target tissues such as the hamster uterus. Initial work The drug was investigated, together with Dr Rob Nicholson at the Tenovus Institute, Cardiff, as part of the Nottingham City Hospital clinical programme. Initially, it was administered as a subcutaneous daily injection, later in a depot monthly formulation. We showed that with both the daily injection and the
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Dang Vu-Phan, Vladimir Grachtchouk, Jingcheng Yu, Lesley A Colby, Max S Wicha, and Ronald J Koenig

A chromosomal translocation results in the production of a paired box 8–peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PAX8–PPARG) fusion protein (PPFP) in ∼35% of follicular thyroid carcinomas. To examine the role of PPFP in thyroid oncogenesis, the fusion protein was stably expressed in the non-transformed rat thyroid cell line PCCL3. PPFP conferred on PCCL3 cells the ability to invade through Matrigel and to form colonies in anchorage-independent conditions. PPFP also increased the fraction of cells with Wnt/TCF-responsive green fluorescent protein reporter gene expression. This Wnt/TCF-activated population was enriched for colony-forming and invading cells. These actions of PPFP required a functional PPARG DNA binding domain (DBD) within PPFP and were further stimulated by PPARG agonists. These data indicate that PPFP, through its PPARG DBD, induces Wnt/TCF pathway activation in a subpopulation of cells, and these cells have properties of cellular transformation including increased invasiveness and anchorage-independent growth.

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J D Lin, M J Liou, T C Chao, H F Weng, and Y S Ho

From 1977 through 1995, 1,013 thyroid carcinoma patients received treatment and were followed up at Chang Gung Medical Center in Taiwan. To evaluate the prognostic variables of papillary and follicular thyroid carcinomas with limited lymph node metastases, a retrospective review of these patients was performed. Of these patients, 910 had papillary or follicular thyroid carcinoma, and 119 patients were categorized as clinical stage 2 with limited neck lymph node metastases only at the time of diagnosis. The patients were categorized into two groups as no recurrence and local recurrence or distant metastasis at the end of 1997. After the operations, radioactive iodide (131I) treatments were performed in 114 patients and external radiotherapy for neck region or distant metastases in 18 patients. The median follow-up period of these patients was 5.4 years. Clinical variables were coded in our computer for statistical analysis. After the treatments, 93 patients remained disease-free; 10 were in stage 2; 5 in stage 3; and 11 aggravated to stage 4. Of the clinical variables, age, post-operative first 1311 uptake scans, and 1-month post-operative thyroglobulin levels revealed statistically significant differences between the group which improved and the group which did not. During the follow-up period, five patients died; three patients died of thyroid cancer and two died of intercurrent diseases. Patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma revealed a higher percentage of lymph node metastases. Although limited lymph node metastases did not influence survival rate, patients with poor prognostic factors need more aggressive treatment to avoid progression of the cancer.

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Kirk Jensen, Aneeta Patel, Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, Andrew Bauer, and Vasyl Vasko

Resistance to anoikis (matrix deprivation-induced apoptosis) is a critical component of the metastatic cascade. Molecular mechanisms underlying resistance to anoikis have not been reported in thyroid cancer cells. For an in vitro model of anoikis, we cultured follicular, papillary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer cell lines on poly-HEMA-treated low-adherent plates. We also performed immunohistochemical analysis of human cancer cells that had infiltrated blood and/or lymphatic vessels. Matrix deprivation was associated with establishment of contacts between floating thyroid cancer cells and formation of multi-cellular spheroids. This process was associated with activation of gap junctional transfer. Increased expression of the gap junction molecule Connexin43 was found in papillary and anaplastic cancer cells forming spheroids. All non-adherent cancer cells showed a lower proliferation rate compared with adherent cells but were more resistant to serum deprivation. AKT was constitutively activated in cancer cells forming spheroids. Inhibition of gap junctional transfer through Connexin43 silencing, or by treatment with the gap junction disruptor carbenoxolone, resulted in loss of pAKT and induction of apoptosis in a cell-type-specific manner. In human thyroid tissue, cancer cells that had infiltrated blood vessels showed morphological similarity to cancer cells forming spheroids in vitro. Intra-vascular cancer cells demonstrated prominent AKT activation in papillary and follicular cancers. Increased Connexin43 immunoreactivity was observed only in intra-vascular papillary cancer cells. Our data demonstrate that establishment of inter-cellular communication contributes to thyroid cancer cell resistance to anoikis. These findings suggest that disruption of gap junctional transfer could represent a potential therapeutic strategy for prevention of metastases.

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D Bonofiglio, H Qi, S Gabriele, S Catalano, S Aquila, M Belmonte, and S Andò

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) has been demonstrated to be anti-neoplastic against various human tumors. The aim of this study was to delineate the molecular mechanism underlying PPARγ ligand rosiglitazone (BRL) antiproliferative effects in follicular WRO and anaplastic FRO human thyroid carcinoma cells. BRL upregulated the p21Cip1/WAF1 levels in the two thyroid cancer cells, while did not modify the p53 protein content. Different evidences indicate that the p21Cip1/WAF1 upregulation by BRL requires a functional PPARγ, since it was reversed by silencing PPARγ and pretreatment with GW9662, an irreversible PPARγ antagonist. Transient transfection assays showed that BRL triggered the transcriptional activity of p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter gene in a p53-independent way, being a p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter construct deleted in the p53 sites still activated by BRL. The Sp1 inhibitor mithramycin silenced the p21Cip1/WAF1 promoter activity suggesting an important role of Sp1 in mediating BRL activation. The electrophoretic mobility shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays evidenced a functional interaction between PPARγ and Sp1 in regulating p21Cip1/WAF1. Intriguingly, ChIP analysis revealed in the p21Cip1/WAF1 gene promoter an increased recruitment of the RNA Pol II associated with an increased histone H3 acetylation and a reduced H3 methylation. The biological event, consistent with PPARγ-induced WRO and FRO cell growth inhibition, was reversed by p21Cip1/WAF1 antisense oligonucleotides and was confirmed by increasing the PPARγ expression, suggesting a crucial role exerted by p21Cip1/WAF1 in PPARγ action. Our results further candidate BRL as a potential agent able to inhibit tumor progression of follicular and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma.

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Stéphanie Durand, Carole Ferraro-Peyret, Mireille Joufre, Annie Chave, Françoise Borson-Chazot, Samia Selmi-Ruby, and Bernard Rousset

About 60–70% of papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) present a BRAF T1799A gene mutation or a rearrangement of RET gene (RET/PTC). In this study, we examined whether PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation and without RET/PTC rearrangement named PTC-ga(−) were distinguishable from PTC-ga(+) (with one or the other gene alteration) on the basis of gene expression characteristics. We analyzed the mutational state of 116 PTC and we compared gene expression profiles of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−) from data of a 200 gene macroarray and quantitative PCR. Seventy five PTC were PTC-ga(+) and 41 were PTC-ga(−). Unsupervised analyses of macroarray data by hierarchical clustering led to a complete segregation of PTC-ga(+) and PTC-ga(−). In a series of 42 genes previously recognized as PTC ‘marker’ genes, 22 were found to be expressed at a comparable level in PTC-ga(−) and normal tissue. Thyroid-specific genes, TPO, TG, DIO1, and DIO2 were under-expressed in PTC-ga(+) but expressed at a normal level in PTC-ga(−). A few genes including DUOX1 and DUOX2 were selectively dys-regulated in PTC-ga(−). Tumor grade of PTC-ga(−) was lower than that of PTC-ga(+). There was a strong association between the mutational state and histiotype of PTC; 81% of PTC follicular variants were corresponded to PTC-ga(−), whereas 84% of PTC of classical form were PTC-ga(+). In conclusion, we show that PTC without BRAF T1799A mutation or RET/PTC rearrangement, mainly corresponding to follicular variants, maintain a thyroid differentiation expression level close to that of normal tissue and should be of better prognosis than PTC with one or the other gene alteration.

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Natassia E Bufalo, Janaina L Leite, Ana C T Guilhen, Elaine C Morari, Fabiana Granja, Ligia V M Assumpcao, and Laura S Ward

In contrast to most human malignancies, epidemiologic studies have frequently reported a reduced risk of differentiated thyroid cancer in tobacco consumers. Cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) gene variants may be related to an increased capacity to activate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, producing highly reactive electrophilic intermediates that might damage DNA. Hence, the germline inheritance of a wild-type CYP1A1 gene may decrease the susceptibility for thyroid cancer. The present study was designed to investigate CYP1A1 (m1 and m2) role in thyroid tumorigenesis and its connection with GSTM1, GSTT1, GSTP1, GSTO1, and codon 72 of p53 genotypes. A total of 248 patients with thyroid nodules, including 67 benign goiters, 13 follicular adenomas, 136 papillary carcinomas, and 32 follicular carcinomas, and 277 controls with similar ethnic backgrounds were interviewed on their lifetime dietary and occupational histories, smoking habit, previous diseases, and other anamnestic data. DNA was extracted from a blood sample and submitted to PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism assays. The wild-type CYP1A1m1 genotype was more frequent among papillary carcinoma patients (74.26%) than in the control population (62.45%; P = 0.0147), reducing the risk for this type of cancer (odds ratio = 0.564; 95% confidence interval = 0.357–0.894). A multiple logistic regression analysis showed an inverse correlation between cigarette smoking (P = 0.0385) and CYP1A1 germline inheritance (P = 0.0237) with the susceptibility to papillary carcinomas. We were not able to find any correlation between smoking, clinical features, parameters of aggressiveness at diagnosis or during follow-up, and any of the GST or CYP genotypes considered separately or in different combinations. We suggest that CYP1A1 genotype might be associated with the reported reduced risk to papillary carcinomas among smokers.

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Jaume Capdevila, Lara Iglesias, Irene Halperin, Ángel Segura, Javier Martínez-Trufero, Maria Ángeles Vaz, Jesús Corral, Gabriel Obiols, Enrique Grande, Juan Jose Grau, and Josep Tabernero

Although thyroid cancer usually has an excellent prognosis, few therapeutic options are available in the refractory setting. Based on the recent results of phase II studies with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, we designed a retrospective analysis of patients with metastatic thyroid cancer treated with sorafenib in seven Spanish referral centers. Consecutive patients with progressive metastatic thyroid cancer (papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic) not suitable for curative surgery, radioactive-iodine therapy, or radiotherapy were treated with sorafenib 400 mg twice a day. The primary end point was objective response rate (RR). Secondary end points included toxicity, median progression-free survival (mPFS), median overall survival (mOS), and correlation between tumor marker levels (thyroglobulin, calcitonin, and carcinoembryonic antigen) and efficacy. Between June 2006 and January 2010, 34 patients were included in the study. Sixteen patients presented differentiated thyroid carcinomas (DTC) of which seven (21%) were papillary, nine (26%) follicular, 15 (44%) medullary (MTC), and three (9%) were anaplastic (ATC). Eleven (32%) patients achieved partial response and 14 (41%) had stable disease beyond 6 months. Regarding histological subtype, RRs were 47% (seven of 15) for MTC, 19% (three of 16) for DTC, and 33% (one of three) for ATC. With a median follow-up of 11.5 months, mPFS were 13.5, 10.5, and 4.4 months for DTC, MTC, and ATC respectively. Tumor markers were evaluated in 22 patients, and a statistically significant association was observed between RR and decrease in tumor marker levels >50% (P=0.033). In this retrospective trial, sorafenib showed antitumor efficacy in all histological subtypes of thyroid cancer, warranting further development in this setting.