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Free access

Federica Panebianco, Alyaksandr V Nikitski, Marina N Nikiforova, Cihan Kaya, Linwah Yip, Vincenzo Condello, Abigail I Wald, Yuri E Nikiforov, and Simion I Chiosea

ALK fusions are found in various tumors, including thyroid cancer, and serve as a diagnostic marker and therapeutic target. Spectrum and outcomes of ALK fusions found in thyroid nodules and cancer are not fully characterized. We report a series of 44 ALK-translocated thyroid neoplasms, including 31 identified preoperatively in thyroid fine-needle aspirates (FNA). The average patients’ age was 43 years (range, 8–76 years); only one with radiation history. All 19 resected thyroid nodules with ALK fusion identified preoperatively were malignant. Among nodules with known surgical pathology (n = 32), 84% were papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs) and 16% poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas (PDTCs). PTCs showed infiltrative growth with follicular architecture seen exclusively (30%) or in combination with papillary and/or solid growth (37%). Tumor multifocality was seen in 10 (31%) PTC cases. Most PDTC had a well-differentiated PTC component. Lymph node metastases were identified in 10/18 (56%) patients with neck dissection. The most common ALK fusion partners were STRN (n = 22) and EML4 (n = 17). In five cases, novel ALK fusion partners were discovered. All five PDTCs carried STRN-ALK fusion. On follow-up, ten patients were free of disease at 2–108 months, whereas two patients with PDTC died of disease. In summary, ALK fusion-positive thyroid carcinomas are typically infiltrative PTC with common follicular growth, which may show tumor dedifferentiation associated with increased mortality. Compared to EML4-ALK, STRN-ALK may be more common in PDTC, and ~10% of ALK fusions occur to rare gene partners. When ALK fusion is detected preoperatively in FNA samples, malignancy should be expected.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.

Free access

Branca M Cavaco, Pedro F Batista, Carmo Martins, Ana Banito, Francisco do Rosário, Edward Limbert, Luís G Sobrinho, and Valeriano Leite

Linkage analysis has identified four familial non-medullary thyroid carcinoma (FNMTC) susceptibility loci: fPTC/PRN (1p13.2-1q22), NMTC1 (2q21), MNG1 (14q32) and TCO (19p13.2). To date, there is no evidence for the involvement of genes from the RAS/RAF signalling pathway in FNMTC. The aim of our study was to evaluate the role of the four susceptibility loci, and RAS/RAF signalling pathway genes, in FNMTC. In total, 8 FNMTC families, and 27 thyroid lesions from family members (22 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs): 11 classic, 10 of the follicular variant and 1 of the mixed variant; 4 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTAs) and 1 nodular goitre (NG)), were evaluated for the involvement of the four susceptibility regions, using linkage and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) analyses. BRAF and H-, N- and K-RAS mutations were also screened in the 27 lesions and patients. Linkage analysis in seven informative families showed no evidence for the involvement of any of the four candidate regions, supporting a genetic heterogeneity for FNMTC. Twenty tumours (74%), of which 18 were PTCs, showed no LOH at the four susceptibility loci. The remaining seven tumours (four PTCs, two FTAs and one NG) showed variable patterns of LOH. Fourteen tumours (52%) had somatic mutations: BRAF-V600E mutation was observed in 9 out of the 22 PTCs (41%); and H-RAS and N-RAS mutations were detected in 5 out of the 22 PTCs (23%). Our data suggest that the four candidate regions are not frequently involved in FNMTC and that the somatic activation of BRAF and RAS plays a role in FNMTC tumourigenesis.

Restricted access

J M Gómez, N Gómez, M Sahún, A Rafecas, C Villabona, and J Soler


Despite the usual excellent prognosis of differentiated thyroid carcinoma, some patients die because of disease. It has been speculated that lethal disease may have a better prognosis if patients are treated with extensive surgery plus 131I ablative treatment. We have analyzed a group of 223 patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma treated under a uniform therapeutic protocol of surgery and followed for 3 to 17.7 years, in order to differentiate patients with a high and a low risk of mortality and the influence of therapy on survival rate.

The therapeutic protocol was as follows. If the diagnosis was papillary carcinoma, subtotal thyroidectomy was performed and cervical nodes were removed if they were suspicious for cancer. If the diagnosis was follicular carcinoma, a total thyroidectomy was performed. 131I was given in cases of patients who were more than 60 years old or who had extrathyroid disease or metastases in papillary carcinomas and in macroangioinvasive follicular carcinomas. In survival analysis, the event used as the end-point was death due to thyroid carcinoma and summarized by the Kaplan-Meier curve and the Mantel-Cox method.

We found three independent prognostic factors which determined mortality: over 60 years of age, tumor size larger than 6 cm and metastases. On the basis of these factors we identified two risk groups: a low-risk group (A), who had no risk factors, composed of 153 patients whose survival rate at 205 months was 100% and a high-risk group (B), who had one or more risk factors, composed of 55 patients whose survival rate at 213 months was 39.6%. Seventeen patients in this second group died from thyroid carcinoma. We therefore analyzed the effect of treatment in group B. Patients who had more extensive surgery had a similar survival rate to those who had less extensive surgery and 131I administration did not modify the survival rate.

These data support the idea that the identification of low-risk groups may facilitate a more rational approach to treatment of differentiated thyroid carcinoma, avoiding aggressive therapy in cases with a good prognosis.

Endocrine-Related Cancer (1997) 4 459-464

Free access

Xiaoli Liu, Justin Bishop, Yuan Shan, Sara Pai, Dingxie Liu, Avaniyapuram Kannan Murugan, Hui Sun, Adel K El-Naggar, and Mingzhao Xing

Mutations 1 295 228 C>T and 1 295 250 C>T (termed C228T and C250T respectively), corresponding to −124 C>T and −146 C>T from the translation start site in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene, have recently been reported in human cancers, but not in thyroid cancers yet. We explored these mutations in thyroid cancers by genomic sequencing of a large number of primary tumor samples. We found the C228T mutation in 0 of 85 (0.0%) benign thyroid tumors, 30 of 257 (11.7%) papillary thyroid cancers (PTC), 9 of 79 (11.4%) follicular thyroid cancers (FTC), 3 of 8 (37.5%) poorly differentiated thyroid cancers (PDTC), 23 of 54 (42.6%) anaplastic thyroid cancers (ATC), and 8 of 12 (66.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. The C250T mutation was uncommon, but mutually exclusive with the C228T mutation, and the two mutations were collectively found in 11 of 79 (13.9%) FTC, 25 of 54 (46.3%) ATC, and 11 of 12 (91.7%) thyroid cancer cell lines. Among PTC variants, the C228T mutation was found in 4 of 13 (30.8%) tall-cell PTC (TCPTC), 23 of 187 (12.3%) conventional PTC, and 2 of 56 (3.6%) follicular variant PTC samples. No TERT mutation was found in 16 medullary thyroid cancer samples. The C228T mutation was associated with the BRAF V600E mutation in PTC, being present in 19 of 104 (18.3%) BRAF mutation-positive PTC vs 11 of 153 (7.2%) the BRAF mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). Conversely, BRAF mutation was found in 19 of 30 (63.3%) C228T mutation-positive PTC vs 85 of 227 (37.4%) C228T mutation-negative PTC samples (P=0.0094). We thus for the first time, to our knowledge, demonstrate TERT promoter mutations in thyroid cancers, that are particularly prevalent in the aggressive thyroid cancers TCPTC, PDTC, ATC and BRAF mutation-positive PTC, revealing a novel genetic background for thyroid cancers.

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

Xiaoyun Dong, Waixing Tang, Stephen Stopenski, Marcia S Brose, Christopher Korch, and Judy L Meinkoth

The functional significance of decreased RAP1GAP protein expression in human tumors is unclear. To identify targets of RAP1GAP downregulation in the thyroid gland, RAP1 and RAP2 protein expression in human thyroid cells and in primary thyroid tumors were analyzed. RAP1GAP and RAP2 were co-expressed in normal thyroid follicular cells. Intriguingly, RAP1 was not detected in normal thyroid cells, although it was detected in papillary thyroid carcinomas, which also expressed RAP2. Both RAP proteins were detected at the membrane in papillary thyroid tumors, suggesting that they are activated when RAP1GAP is downregulated. To explore the functional significance of RAP1GAP depletion, RAP1GAP was transiently expressed at the lowest level that is sufficient to block endogenous RAP2 activity in papillary and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma cell lines. RAP1GAP impaired the ability of cells to spread and migrate on collagen. Although RAP1GAP had no effect on protein tyrosine phosphorylation in growing cells, RAP1GAP impaired phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase and paxillin at sites phosphorylated by SRC in cells acutely plated on collagen. SRC activity was increased in suspended cells, where it was inhibited by RAP1GAP. Inhibition of SRC kinase activity impaired cell spreading and motility. These findings identify SRC as a target of RAP1GAP depletion and suggest that the downregulation of RAP1GAP in thyroid tumors enhances SRC-dependent signals that regulate cellular architecture and motility.

Free access

Roberto Bellelli, Maria Domenica Castellone, Ginesa Garcia-Rostan, Clara Ugolini, Carmelo Nucera, Peter M Sadow, Tito Claudio Nappi, Paolo Salerno, Maria Carmela Cantisani, Fulvio Basolo, Tomas Alvarez Gago, Giuliana Salvatore, and Massimo Santoro

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a very aggressive thyroid cancer. forkhead box protein M1 (FOXM1) is a member of the forkhead box family of transcription factors involved in control of cell proliferation, chromosomal stability, angiogenesis, and invasion. Here, we show that FOXM1 is significantly increased in ATCs compared with normal thyroid, well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas (papillary and/or follicular), and poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas (P=0.000002). Upregulation of FOXM1 levels in ATC cells was mechanistically linked to loss-of-function of p53 and to the hyperactivation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/AKT/FOXO3a pathway. Knockdown of FOXM1 by RNA interference inhibited cell proliferation by arresting cells in G2/M and reduced cell invasion and motility. This phenotype was associated with decreased expression of FOXM1 target genes, like cyclin B1 (CCNB1), polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1), Aurora B (AURKB), S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (SKP2), and plasminogen activator, urokinase: uPA (PLAU). Pharmacological inhibition of FOXM1 in an orthotopic mouse model of ATC reduced tumor burden and metastasization. All together, these findings suggest that FOXM1 represents an important player in thyroid cancer progression to the anaplastic phenotype and a potential therapeutic target for this fatal cancer.

Open access

Catherine Ory, Nicolas Ugolin, Céline Levalois, Ludovic Lacroix, Bernard Caillou, Jean-Michel Bidart, Martin Schlumberger, Ibrahima Diallo, Florent de Vathaire, Paul Hofman, José Santini, Bernard Malfoy, and Sylvie Chevillard

Both external and internal exposure to ionizing radiation are strong risk factors for the development of thyroid tumors. Until now, the diagnosis of radiation-induced thyroid tumors has been deduced from a network of arguments taken together with the individual history of radiation exposure. Neither the histological features nor the genetic alterations observed in these tumors have been shown to be specific fingerprints of an exposure to radiation. The aim of our work is to define ionizing radiation-related molecular specificities in a series of secondary thyroid tumors developed in the radiation field of patients treated by radiotherapy. To identify molecular markers that could represent a radiation-induction signature, we compared 25K microarray transcriptome profiles of a learning set of 28 thyroid tumors, which comprised 14 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTA) and 14 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC), either sporadic or consecutive to external radiotherapy in childhood. We identified a signature composed of 322 genes which discriminates radiation-induced tumors (FTA and PTC) from their sporadic counterparts. The robustness of this signature was further confirmed by blind case-by-case classification of an independent set of 29 tumors (16 FTA and 13 PTC). After the histology code break by the clinicians, 26/29 tumors were well classified regarding tumor etiology, 1 was undetermined, and 2 were misclassified. Our results help shed light on radiation-induced thyroid carcinogenesis, since specific molecular pathways are deregulated in radiation-induced tumors.