OBJECTIVE: RET proto-oncogene rearrangements (ret/PTCs) represent the most common genetic alterations found in papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs). Correlation of ret/PTC expression with clinical outcome is controversial. The aim of the present study was to analyze the frequency of RET rearrangements in adult PTCs, and to investigate if ret/PTCs influence biological behavior and clinical features of the cancers. DESIGN: Ret/PTC rearrangements were looked for in tIssue samples of 48 PTCs collected at our institution. Data about clinical and pathological features of the tumors were also reviewed. Three separate association analyses were carried out on the cohort evaluating the effects of, respectively, ret/PTC positivity, preferential RET tyrosine kinase domain (RET-TK) expression, and ret/PTC plus RET-TK positivity, on age, sex, tumor size, staging, number of neoplastic foci, and histological subtype. METHODS: The genetic study was conducted with the RT-PCR-Southern blot technique. Standard Student's t-test and Fisher exact test were applied for the association analyses. RESULTS: The molecular genetic study demonstrated the positivity of ret/PTC1 and ret/PTC3 in 13 of 48 tumors (27.1%), and an exclusive or preferential RET-TK expression in 17 cases (35.4%). None of the three genetico-clinical analyses showed any significant association between ret/PTC expression and the clinical and pathological features of the cancers. CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that RET rearrangements may not play any distinctive role in driving histotype development and cancer progression in these neoplasms. Moreover, they weaken the possibility of using ret/PTC as a prognostic marker for papillary thyroid carcinomas.
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