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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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Hong-Jun Song, Yan-Li Xue, Yan-Hong Xu, Zhong-Ling Qiu and Quan-Yong Luo

Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is usually indolent with good prognosis and long-term survival. However, DTC distant metastasis is often a grave event and accounts for most of its disease-specific mortality. The major sites of distant metastases are the lung and bone. Metastases to the brain, breast, liver, kidney, muscle, and skin are rare or relatively rare. Nevertheless, recognizing rare metastases from DTC has a significant impact on the clinical decision making and prognosis of patients. 131I single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (131I-SPECT/CT) can provide both metabolic and anatomic information about a lesion; therefore, it can better localize and define the 131I-WBS findings in DTC patients. In this pictorial review, the imaging features of a range of rare metastases from DTC are demonstrated, with a particular emphasis on the 131I-SPECT/CT diagnostic aspect.

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Hao Fu, Lin Cheng, Yuchen Jin and Libo Chen

Thyrotoxicosis with concomitant thyroid cancer is rare and poorly recognized, which may result in delayed diagnosis, inappropriate treatment and even poor prognosis. To provide a comprehensive guidance for clinicians, the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of this challenging setting were systematically reviewed. According to literatures available, the etiologies of thyrotoxicosis with concomitant thyroid cancer were categorized into Graves’ disease with concurrent differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) or medullary thyroid cancer, Marine–Lenhart Syndrome with coexisting DTC, Plummer’s disease with concomitant DTC, amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis with concomitant DTC, central hyperthyroidism with coexisting DTC, hyperfunctioning metastases of DTC and others. The underlying causal mechanisms linking thyrotoxicosis and thyroid cancer were elucidated. Medical history, biochemical assessments, radioiodine uptake, anatomic and metabolic imaging and ultrasonography-guided fine-needle aspiration combined with pathological examinations were found to be critical for precise diagnosis. Surgery remains a mainstay in both tumor elimination and control of thyrotoxicosis, while anti-thyroid drugs, beta-blockers, 131I, glucocorticoids, plasmapheresis, somatostatin analogs, dopamine agonists, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and tyrosine kinase inhibitors should also be appropriately utilized as needed.

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Christopher W Rowe, Jonathan W Paul, Craig Gedye, Jorge M Tolosa, Cino Bendinelli, Shaun McGrath and Roger Smith

Recent advances in the arena of theranostics have necessitated a re-examining of previously established fields. The existing paradigm of therapeutic thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) targeting in the post-surgical management of differentiated thyroid cancer using levothyroxine and recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is well understood. However, in an era of personalized medicine, and with an increasing awareness of the risk profile of longstanding pharmacological hyperthyroidism, it is imperative clinicians understand the molecular basis and magnitude of benefit for individual patients. Furthermore, TSHR has been recently re-conceived as a selective target for residual metastatic thyroid cancer, with pilot data demonstrating effective targeting of nanoparticles to thyroid cancers using this receptor as a target. This review examines the evidence for TSHR signaling as an oncogenic pathway and assesses the evidence for ongoing TSHR expression in thyroid cancer metastases. Priorities for further research are highlighted.

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M Niedziela

According to the literature thyroid nodules are quite rare in the first two decades of life. However, there are some exceptions, relating to areas with an iodine deficiency or affected by radioactive fallout, where the risk of nodules and carcinomas is increased. Therefore, it is a great challenge for the physician to distinguish between benign and malignant lesions preoperatively, and not only in these areas of greater risk. A careful work-up, comprising the patient’s history, clinical examination, laboratory tests, thyroid ultrasound, scintigraphy, fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) and molecular studies, is mandatory to improve the preoperative diagnosis. The differential diagnosis should also include benign thyroid conditions such as: (i) congenital hypothyroidism due to dyshormonogenesis or ectopy, (ii) thyroid hemiagenesis, (iii) thyroglossal duct cyst, (iv) simple goiter, (v) cystic lesion, (vi) nodular hyperplasia, (vii) follicular adenoma, (viii) Graves’ disease and (ix) Hashimoto thyroiditis, all of which can predispose to the development of thyroid nodules. The majority of thyroid carcinomas derive from the follicular cell (papillary, follicular, insular and undifferentiated (or anaplastic) thyroid carcinoma), whereas medullary thyroid carcinoma derives from calcitonin-producing cells. Inherited forms of thyroid cancer may occur, especially in relation to medullary thyroid carcinoma. FNAB is a critical factor in establishing the preoperative diagnosis. However, we should keep in mind the fact that a conventional cytological evaluation can miss the neoplastic nature of a lesion and the employment of immunocytochemical and molecular studies of aspirates from FNAB can give us a more precise diagnosis of neoplasia in thyroid nodules once they are detected.

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N Garcia de la Torre, I Buley, J A H Wass and H E Turner

The role of angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis in thyroid cancer pathogenesis has not been elucidated. Patterns for tumour behaviour and metastasic spread vary according to tumour type and whether differences in the angiogenic or lymphangiogenic phenotype influence the route for tumour metastases or determine a more aggressive behaviour has not been fully explored. The angiogenic and lymphangiogenic phenotypes of a large cohort of thyroid proliferative lesions (n=191) were studied. Using immunohistochemistry for CD34, lymphatic vessel endothelial receptor-1 (LYVE-1) (specific markers for vascular and lymphatic endothelium respectively), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A), VEGF-C and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2), this study analyses microvascular density (MVD), lymphatic vascular density (LVD), and expression of angiogenic and lymphangiogenic factors in normal thyroid (NT; n=19), multinodular goitre (n=25), toxic multinodular goitre (n=8), Graves’ hyperplasia (n=22), follicular adenoma (n=54), papillary carcinoma (PC; n=27), incidental papillary microcarcinoma (PMC; n=8), follicular carcinoma (FC; n=20) and medullary carcinoma (MC; n=8). MVD was decreased in proliferative lesions, benign and malignant, compared with NT (P<0.0001). In contrast, VEGF-A expression was increased in thyroid carcinomas (PC, FC and MC) when compared with PMC, benign lesions and NT (P<0.0001). LVD was higher in PC and PMC (P=0.001), and VEGF-C expression was increased in PC (P<0.0001). Despite higher LVD and increased expression of VEGF-A and VEGF-C in thyroid cancers, these markers were not related to poor prognosis in terms of tumour size, multifocality and/or presence of lymphatic or distant metastases. In conclusion, angiogenesis is reduced in thyroid proliferative lesions compared with NT tissue. However, VEGF-A expression is upregulated in thyroid cancers. Lymphangiogenesis and VEGF-C expression are increased in thyroid tumours prone to lymphatic metastases. This may be an important mechanism underlying the differences in metastatic behaviour between papillary and follicular thyroid cancer.

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D Führer, A Tannapfel, O Sabri, P Lamesch and R Paschke

In a 59-year-old patient, thyroid follicular cancer was diagnosed in two right-sided toxic thyroid nodules, which had presented clinically as unilateral thyroid autonomy. In addition, the patient had histologically proven lung metastases of thyroid cancer; however, these failed to exhibit iodine uptake and were resistant to radioiodine treatment. The functional activity of the thyroid nodules prompted us to screen for TSH receptor (TSHR) mutations, and the histological diagnosis of follicular carcinoma led us to search for the PAX8-PPARgamma1 rearrangement and mutations in the ras genes. Each thyroid nodule harboured a different TSHR mutation (large nodule, Asp633Tyr; small nodule, Phe631Ile). Presence of both mutations in one sample suggestive of local invasion of a thyroid carcinoma could not be demonstrated, although several specimens from different nodule locations were screened. Only the wild-type TSHR sequence was identified in the histologically normal left thyroid lobe, and no genetic alterations were found in the other investigated genes. No TSHR mutations were detected in the pulmonary metastases. This is the first case report of a patient with toxic follicular thyroid carcinoma harbouring two different TSHR mutations and presenting with non-functional lung metastases.

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Julie A Ellerhorst, Aresu Sendi-Naderi, Marilyn K Johnson, Carolyn P Cooke, Shyam M Dang and A Hafeez Diwan

We have reported a high prevalence of hypothyroidism in the cutaneous melanoma population, suggesting that the pathologic hormonal environment of hypothyroidism promotes melanoma growth. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that TSH, which circulates at elevated levels in hypothyroid individuals, stimulates the growth of melanoma cells. Our results show that TSH receptors (TSHR) are expressed by virtually all cutaneous melanocytic lesions, including benign nevi, dysplastic nevi, and melanomas, with higher expression found in malignant and pre-malignant lesions. The finding of TSHR expression by human tumors is confirmed in cultured melanoma cells and melanocytes, in which TSHR expression is demonstrated by immunofluorescent staining, western blotting, and reverse transcriptase-PCR. Melanoma TSHR are functional, as evidenced by the ability of TSH to induce the formation of cAMP and to activate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Cultured melanoma cells, but not melanocytes, are induced to proliferate at a physiologically relevant concentration of TSH. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that TSH is a growth factor for human melanoma. Our findings have broad clinical implications for the prevention of melanoma and the management of established disease.

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J L Reverter, S Holgado, N Alonso, I Salinas, M L Granada and A Sanmartí

The effect of subclinical hyperthyroidism on bone mineral density is controversial and could be significant in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma who receive suppressive doses of levothyroxine (LT4). To ascertain whether prolonged treatment with LT4 to suppress thyrotropin had a deleterious effect on bone mineral density and/or calcium metabolism in patients thyroidectomized for differentiated thyroid cancer we have performed a cross-sectional study in a group of 88 women (mean ± SD age: 51 ± 12 years) treated with LT4 after near-total thyroidectomy and in a control group of 88 healthy women (51 ± 11 years) matched for body mass index and menopausal status. We determined calcium metabolism parameters, bone turnover marker N-telopeptide and bone mass density by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. No differences were found between patients and controls in calcium metabolism parameters or N-telopeptide except for PTH, which was significantly increased in controls. No differences were found between groups in bone mineral density in femoral neck (0.971 ± 0.148 gr/cm2 vs 0.956 ± 0.130 gr/cm2 in patients and controls respectively, P = 0.5). In lumbar spine, bone mineral density values were lower in controls than in patients (1.058 ± 0.329 gr/cm2 vs 1.155 ± 0.224 gr/cm2 respectively, P<0.05). When premenopausal (n = 44) and postmenopausal (n = 44) patients were compared with their respective controls, bone mineral density was similar both in femoral neck and lumbar spine. The proportion of women with normal bone mass density, osteopenia and osteoporosis in patient and control groups was similar in pre- and postmenopausal women. In conclusion, long-term suppressive LT4 treatment does not appear to affect skeletal integrity in women with differentiated thyroid carcinoma.

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José I Botella-Carretero, Manuel Gómez-Bueno, Vivencio Barrios, Carmen Caballero, Rafael García-Robles, José Sancho and Héctor F Escobar-Morreale

To evaluate cardiovascular functionality in patients with thyroid cancer, we have performed echocardiography and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in 19 women with differentiated thyroid carcinoma during thyroxine withdrawal, at three time points: the last day on TSH-suppressive thyroxine doses (subclinical or mild hyperthyroidism), 4-7 days after withdrawal (normal free thyroxine (FT4) and free triiodothyronine (FT3) levels), and before 131I whole body scanning (overt hypothyroidism). Twenty-one healthy euthyroid women served as controls. When compared with the values at visit 2, when patients had normal serum FT4 and FT3 levels, night-time systolic and mean blood pressure were increased when the patients were mildly hyperthyroid, and night-time systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure were increased during overt hypothyroidism. The proportion of nondippers (absence of nocturnal decline in blood pressure) was markedly increased compared with healthy controls (7%), when patients were hyper- or hypothyroid (58% and 50% respectively), but not when patients had normal FT4 and FT3 levels (12%). No changes were observed in office blood pressure or in daytime ambulatory blood pressure readings. Diastolic function worsened during thyroxine withdrawal (E and A waves (early and late mitral flow) decreased, and the E/A ratio and the isovolumic relaxation time increased), and cardiac output decreased in parallel with the decrease in heart rate and systolic blood flow. In conclusion, the chronic administration of TSH-suppressive doses of thyroxine and the withdrawal of thyroxine frequently used for the management of differentiated thyroid carcinoma, are associated with undesirable cardiovascular effects.