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Guia Vannucchi, Michela Perrino, Stefania Rossi, Carla Colombo, Leonardo Vicentini, Davide Dazzi, Paolo Beck-Peccoz and Laura Fugazzola

Objective

Pregnancy represents a favorable condition for the development of thyroid nodules, likely due to the secretion of hormones with stimulatory activity. In particular, differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) represents the second most frequent tumor among those diagnosed during pregnancy. However, few and discordant data are available about the impact of pregnancy on tumor outcome.

Methods

A total of 123 women with DTC were divided into three groups according to the timing of tumor diagnosis (group 1, at least 1 year after the delivery; group 2, during pregnancy or in the first year after delivery; and group 3, before pregnancy or nulliparity) and evaluated according to the international guidelines. Furthermore, immunohistochemical studies of estrogen receptor α (ERα) were performed in 38 papillary thyroid cancer tissues from the three groups.

Results

Thyroid cancer diagnosed during pregnancy was associated with a poorer prognosis compared to tumors developed in nongravidic periods (P<0.0001). Accordingly, at the stepwise logistic regression analysis, the diagnosis of DTC during pregnancy or in the first year post partum was the most significant indicator of persistent disease (P=0.001). Interestingly, ERα expression significantly differed among tumors of the three groups, being detected in 31% of group 1, in 87.5% of group 2, and in 0% of group 3 (P=0.01).

Conclusions

Present data indicate that pregnancy has a negative impact on the outcome of thyroid cancer. The presence of ERα in the majority of tumors diagnosed during pregnancy indicates that the poorer outcome of these cases could be related to the estrogen-mediated growth stimulus.

Free access

Guia Vannucchi, Danila Covelli, Irene Campi, Daniele Origo, Nicola Currò, Valentina Cirello, Davide Dazzi, Paolo Beck-Peccoz and Mario Salvi

Background

Glucocorticoids are the mainstay of immunosuppression for active moderate–severe Graves' orbitopathy (GO).

Aim

To analyze the response to therapy and the contribution of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene polymorphisms to the therapeutic outcome of intravenous glucocorticoids (IVGC) in active moderate–severe GO.

Methods

We have studied 58 patients treated with 7.5 g i.v. methylprednisolone (cumulative dose). Ophthalmological assessment was performed at baseline and at 6–8, 12–16, and 24–30 weeks after the first infusion. Three GR gene polymorphisms, ER22/23EK, N363S, and BCL1, which have been associated to variable sensitivity to steroids, were studied in 43/58 patients. The therapeutic outcomes defined as: i) reduction of the clinical activity score (CAS) ≥2 points or ii) reduction of proptosis ≥2 mm or iii) improvement of diplopia according to the Gorman score were also studied in relation to treatment schedule, age, gender, duration of thyroid or GO, smoking habits, and serum TSH-receptor autoantibodies levels.

Results

In total, 70% of patients responded and had GO inactivation (CAS <4) as early as 6–8 weeks. At 12–16 weeks, the proportion of patients who became inactive increased by another 10% up to a total of 80%. ER22/23EK and N363S polymorphisms were present only in about 7%, while the Bcl1 variant was present in 30% of patients; no significant association of any of the GR polymorphisms with either the therapeutic response or the occurrence of side effects was observed.

Conclusions

Most patients with active GO respond to IVGC as early as 6–8 weeks of therapy and the analyzed GR polymorphisms do not influence the therapeutic effect of steroids. Questions arise about the need of continuing therapy up to 12 weeks in nonresponders. We suggest that these patients may be switched to other treatments alone or in combination with steroids.

Free access

Mario Salvi, Guia Vannucchi, Irene Campi, Nicola Currò, Davide Dazzi, Simona Simonetta, Paola Bonara, Stefania Rossi, Clara Sina, Claudio Guastella, Roberto Ratiglia and Paolo Beck-Peccoz

Introduction: Hyperthyroid Graves’ disease (GD) is a B-cell-mediated condition caused by TSH receptor antibodies (TRAb), which decline when GD remits. Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody rituximab (RTX) induces transient B-cell depletion that may potentially modify the active inflammatory phase of thyroid-associated ophthalmopathy (TAO).

Methods: Nine patients with GD, (seven with active TAO, two with mild lid signs) were studied. The trial was only approved as an open pilot study; thus we compared the effect of RTX therapy to that of i.v. glucocorticoids (IVGC) in 20 consecutive patients. Patients were treated with RTX (1000 mg i.v. twice at 2-week interval) or with IVGC (500 mg i.v. for 16 weeks). TAO was assessed by the clinical activity score (CAS) and severity was classified using NOSPECS (No signs or symptoms; Only signs (lid); Soft tissue involvement; Proptosis, Extraocular muscle involvement; Corneal involvement; Sight loss). Thyroid function and lymphocyte count were measured by standardized methods.

Results: All patients attained peripheral B-cell depletion with the first RTX infusion. Minor side effects were reported in three patients. Thyroid function was not affected by RTX therapy and hyperthyroid patients required therapy with methimazole. After RTX, the changes in the levels of thyroglobulin antibodies, thyroperoxidase antibodies and TRAb were neither significant nor correlated with CD20+ depletion (P = NS). CAS values before RTX were 4.7 ± 0.5 and decreased to 1.8 ± 0.8 at the end of follow-up (P < 0.0001) and more significantly compared with IVGC (P < 0.05). Proptosis decreased significantly after RTX both in patients with active TAO (ANOVA; P < 0.0001) and those with lid signs (ANOVA; P < 0.003). The degree of inflammation (class 2) decreased significantly in response to RTX (ANOVA; P < 0.001). Relapse of active TAO was not observed in patients treated with RTX, but occurred in 10% of those treated with IVGC, who also experienced adverse effects more frequently (45 vs 33% of patients).

Conclusions: RTX positively affects the clinical course of TAO, independently of either thyroid function or circulating antithyroid antibodies, including TRAb. If our findings are confirmed in large controlled studies, RTX may represent a useful therapeutic tool in patients with active TAO.