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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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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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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.

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Rabii Ameziane El Hassani, Camille Buffet, Sophie Leboulleux, and Corinne Dupuy

At physiological concentrations, reactive oxygen species (ROS), including superoxide anions and H2O2, are considered as second messengers that play key roles in cellular functions, such as proliferation, gene expression, host defence and hormone synthesis. However, when they are at supraphysiological levels, ROS are considered potent DNA-damaging agents. Their increase induces oxidative stress, which can initiate and maintain genomic instability. The thyroid gland represents a good model for studying the impact of oxidative stress on genomic instability. Indeed, one particularity of this organ is that follicular thyroid cells synthesise thyroid hormones through a complex mechanism that requires H2O2. Because of their detection in thyroid adenomas and in early cell transformation, both oxidative stress and DNA damage are believed to be neoplasia-preceding events in thyroid cells. Oxidative DNA damage is, in addition, detected in the advanced stages of thyroid cancer, suggesting that oxidative lesions of DNA also contribute to the maintenance of genomic instability during the subsequent phases of tumourigenesis. Finally, ionizing radiation and the mutation of oncogenes, such as RAS and BRAF, play a key role in thyroid carcinogenesis through separate and unique mechanisms: they upregulate the expression of two distinct ‘professional’ ROS-generating systems, the NADPH oxidases DUOX1 and NOX4, which cause DNA damage that may promote chromosomal instability, tumourigenesis and dedifferentiation.

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Devora Champa, Marika A Russo, Xiao-Hui Liao, Samuel Refetoff, Ronald A Ghossein, and Antonio Di Cristofano

Poorly differentiated tumors of the thyroid gland (PDTC) are generally characterized by a poor prognosis due to their resistance to available therapeutic approaches. The relative rarity of these tumors is a major obstacle to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor aggressiveness and drug resistance, and consequently to the development of novel therapies. By simultaneously activating Kras and deleting p53 (Trp53) in thyroid follicular cells, we have generated a novel mouse model that develops papillary thyroid cancer invariably progressing to PDTC. In several cases, tumors further progress to anaplastic carcinomas. The poorly differentiated tumors are morphologically and functionally similar to their human counterparts and depend on MEK/ERK signaling for proliferation. Using primary carcinomas as well as carcinoma-derived cell lines, we also demonstrate that these tumors are intrinsically resistant to apoptosis due to high levels of expression of the Bcl2 family members, Bcl2a1 (Bcl2a1a) and Mcl1, and can be effectively targeted by Obatoclax, a small-molecule pan-inhibitor of the Bcl2 family. Furthermore, we show that Bcl2 family inhibition synergizes with MEK inhibition as well as with doxorubicin in inducing cell death. Thus, our studies in a novel, relevant mouse model have uncovered a promising druggable feature of aggressive thyroid cancers.

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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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Shih-Ping Cheng, Chien-Liang Liu, Ming-Jen Chen, Ming-Nan Chien, Ching-Hsiang Leung, Chi-Hsin Lin, Yi-Chiung Hsu, and Jie-Jen Lee

CD74, the invariant chain of major histocompatibility complex class II, is also a receptor for macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). CD74 and MIF have been associated with tumor progression and metastasis in hematologic and solid tumors. In this study, we found that 60 and 65% of papillary thyroid cancers were positive for CD74 and MIF immunohistochemical staining respectively. Anaplastic thyroid cancer was negative for MIF, but mostly positive for CD74 expression. Normal thyroid tissue and follicular adenomas were negative for CD74 expression. CD74 expression in papillary thyroid cancer was associated with larger tumor size (P=0.043), extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.021), advanced TNM stage (P=0.006), and higher MACIS score (P=0.026). No clinicopathological parameter was associated with MIF expression. Treatment with anti-CD74 antibody in thyroid cancer cells inhibited cell growth, colony formation, cell migration and invasion, and vascular endothelial growth factor secretion. In contrast, treatment with recombinant MIF induced an increase in cell invasion. Anti-CD74 treatment reduced AKT phosphorylation and stimulated AMPK activation. Our findings suggest that CD74 overexpression in thyroid cancer is associated with advanced tumor stage and may serve as a therapeutic target.

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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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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.

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G Riesco-Eizaguirre, P Gutiérrez-Martínez, M A García-Cabezas, M Nistal, and P Santisteban

The oncogene BRAFV600E is the most frequent genetic event in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) but its prognostic impact still remains to be elucidated. We evaluated a representative series of 67 individuals with PTC who underwent total thyroidectomy. BRAF-positive tumours correlated with early recurrences (32% vs 7.6%; P=0.02) during a median postoperative follow-up period of 3 years. Interestingly, within the recurrences, a significant majority had negative radioiodine (131I) total body scans, predicting a poorer outcome as treatment with 131I is not effective. This last observation led us to investigate the role of BRAFV600E and the MEK-ERK pathway in thyroid dedifferentiation, particularly in Na+/I symporter (NIS) impairment, as this thyroid-specific plasma membrane glycoprotein mediates active transport of I into the thyroid follicular cells. A subset of 60 PTC samples was evaluated for NIS immunoreactivity and, accordingly, we confirmed a significant low NIS expression and impaired targeting to membranes in BRAF-positive samples (3.5% vs 30%; P=0.005). Furthermore, experiments with differentiated PCCl3 thyroid cells demonstrated that transient expression of BRAFV600E sharply impaired both NIS expression and targeting to membrane and, surprisingly, this impairment was not totally dependent on the MEK-ERK pathway. We have concluded that BRAFV600E is a new prognostic factor in PTC that correlates with a high risk of recurrences and less differentiated tumours due to the loss of NIS-mediated 131I uptake.