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Hendrieke C Hoftijzer, Ying Y Liu, Hans Morreau, Ton van Wezel, Alberto M Pereira, Eleonora P M Corssmit, Johannes A Romijn and Johannes W A Smit


Although differential expression of retinoic acid receptor (RAR) subtypes between benign and malignant thyroid tissues has been described, their diagnostic value has not been reported.


To investigate the diagnostic accuracy of RAR and retinoid X receptor (RXR) subtype protein expression for the differential diagnosis of thyroid neoplasms.


We used a tissue array containing 93 benign thyroid tissues (normal thyroid, multinodular goiter, and follicular adenoma (FA)) and 77 thyroid carcinomas (papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), follicular thyroid carcinoma, and follicular variant of PTC (FVPTC)). Immunostaining was done for RAR and RXR subtypes. Staining was analyzed semiquantitatively based on receiver operating curve analyses and using hierarchical cluster analysis.


We found increased expression of cytoplasmic (c) RARA, cRARG, cRXRB and decreased expression of nuclear (n) RARB, nRARG, and nRXRA in thyroid carcinomas compared with benign tissues. We found three proteins differently expressed between FA and FTC and five proteins differentially expressed between FA and FVPTC, with high diagnostic accuracies. Using cluster analysis, the combination of negative staining of membranous RXRB and positive staining for cRXRB had a high positive predictive value (98%) for malignant thyroid disease, whereas the combination of positive nRXRA and negative cRXRB staining had a high predictive value (91%) for benign thyroid lesions.


We conclude that differences in RAR and RXR subtype protein expression may be valuable for the differential diagnosis of thyroid neoplasms. The results of this study and especially the value of cluster analysis have to be confirmed in subsequent studies.

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Karin van der Tuin, Marina Ventayol, Willem Corver, Midia Khalifa, Dina Ruano, E P Corssmit, Frederik J Hes, Thera P Links, Jan Smit, Theo S. Plantinga, E Kapiteijn, Ton Van Wezel and Hans Morreau

OBJECTIVE: Gene alterations leading to activation of the MAPK pathway are of interest for targeted therapy in patients with advanced radioactive iodine-refractory (RAI-R) thyroid carcinoma. Due to technical reasons gene fusion analysis in RNA isolated from formalin-fixed tumor tissues has till now been limited. The objective of the present study was to identify targetable gene rearrangements in RNA isolated from formalin-fixed RAI-R thyroid carcinomas.

DESIGN: Retrospective study in 132 patients with RAI-R thyroid carcinoma (59 papillary-, 24 follicular-, 35 Hürthle cell-, and 14 anaplastic thyroid carcinoma).

METHODS: Total nucleic acid (undivided DNA and RNA) was isolated from formalin-fixed tissue. Extensive gene fusion analysis was performed in all samples that tested negative for pathogenic BRAF, NRAS, HRAS and KRAS variants.

RESULTS: Seven targetable gene fusions were identified in the remaining 60 samples without known DNA variants. This includes frequently reported gene fusions such as CCDC6/RET [PTC1], PRKAR1A/RET [PTC2] and ETV6/NTRK3 (n=2), and gene fusions that are less common in thyroid cancer (TPM3/NTRK1, EML4/ALK and EML4/NTRK3). Of note, most gene fusions were detected in papillary thyroid carcinoma and MAPK-associated alterations in Hürthle cell carcinomas are rare (2/35).

CONCLUSION: Targetable gene fusions were found in 12% of RAI-R thyroid carcinoma without DNA variants, and can be effectively identified in formalin-fixed tissue. These gene fusionsmight provide a preclinical rationale to include specific kinase inhibitors in the treatment regimen for these patients. The latter intends to restore iodine transport and/or take advantage of the direct effect on tumor cell vitality once progressive disease is seen.