BACKGROUND: Thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is a reliable and cost-effective diagnostic tool for establishing the nature of thyroid nodules, although up to 30% of FNAs are still classified as "indeterminate." Molecular testing of FNAs could improve preoperative diagnosis, thereby reducing unnecessary surgery. In this multicenter prospective study the authors investigated, using a 7-gene assay, the distribution and diagnostic impact of BRAF, RAS, RET/PTC, and PAX8/PPARg, the most frequent genomic alterations occurring during thyroid oncogenesis.
METHODS: In total, of 1172 routine FNAs from 7 centers in southern Italy were classified according to the Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology. Each specimen was tested, and molecular data were compared with available histology or cytologic follow-up.
RESULTS: In particular, for atypia of undetermined significance/follicular lesion of undetermined significance cases, the 7-gene test confirmed the high positive predictive value of BRAFV600E and BRAF-like mutations (80%) and the moderate positive predictive value of RAS-like alterations (32.4%), suggesting different surgical management, depending on the type of mutation. The rate of mutation-positive FNAs was strictly related to the risk of malignancy of each diagnostic class, supporting the identification of prognostically relevant diagnostic categories.
CONCLUSIONS: The 7-gene panel test improves the preoperative risk stratification of indeterminate thyroid FNAs, especially when considering the biologic significance of the different types of mutations. Moreover, the rate of mutation-positive FNAs is related to the risk of malignancy of each diagnostic class.