Heterogeneity in the distribution of RET/PTC rearrangements within individual post-chernobyl papillary thyroid carcinomas

Kristian Unger, Horst Zitzelsberger, Giuliana Salvatore, Massimo Santoro, Tatjana Bogdanova, Herbert Braselmann, Peter Kastner, Lyudmilla Zurnadzhy, Nikolay Tronko, Peter Hutzler, Gerry Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The nuclear disaster that occurred in Chernobyl in 1986 offered the unique opportunity to study the molecular genetics of one human tumor type, papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland, associated with a specific etiology. We have analyzed RET rearrangements in post-Chernobyl papillary thyroid carcinomas (n = 29), follicular thyroid adenomas (n = 2), and follicular thyroid carcinoma (n = 1) by interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis on paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Paraffin sections were microdissected before use to ensure that only tumor was present. Cell nuclei were scored for the presence of a split FISH signal (separated red and green signal) in addition to an overlapping signal. Only cells with either two overlapping signals or one split and one overlapping signal were counted to ensure that only complete cell nuclei had been scored. In total, 23 of 32 cases (72%) showed RET rearrangements diagnosed by FISH interphase analysis. In all cases, the tumors were composed of a mixture of cells with and without ret rearrangement on FISH. In some cases, this distribution was clearly nonrandom because clustering of rearranged cells was detected within the same tumor nodule. Accordingly, only 31% of the cases positive for rearrangement on FISH also scored positive using RT-PCR. These findings suggest that because RET/PTC rear-rangements are not present in a majority of tumor cells, either a fraction of post-Chernobyl papillary thyroid tumors are of multiclonal origin, or ret rearrangement is a later, subclonal event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4272-4279
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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