Oncogenic rearrangements of the RET proto-oncogene in papillary thyroid carcinomas from children exposed to the Chernobyl nuclear accident

L. Fugazzola, S. Pilotti, A. Pinchera, T. V. Vorontsova, P. Mondellini, I. Bongarzone, A. Greco, L. Astakhova, M. G. Butti, E. P. Demidchik, F. Pacini, M. A. Pierotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident, a striking increase of thyroid carcinoma has been reported in children exposed to radiation in Belarus. Because of its unprecedented scale and its emotional implications, this finding has raised concern and called the attention of the scientific community to this major health problem. Although epidemiologically documented, a direct correlation between thyroid cancer and radiation exposure has not been definitely proven at the molecular level. On the assumption that ionizing radiation could cause specific and common cancer- associated genetic lesions, an analysis of oncogene activation and/or tumor suppressor gene inactivation would help to define radiation-induced thyroid carcinomas. Therefore, we have analyzed by different molecular approaches, including Southern blotting, DNA transfection assay on NIH-3T3 cells, and reverse transcription-PCR analysis, six papillary carcinomas from children living in the region of Belarus at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident to identify tumor-specific gene rearrangements of the protooncogenes RET and TRK, previously found activated in a tumor type-specific manner in papillary thyroid carcinoma. Using Southern blot analysis in four cases, we could detect specific rearranged bands indicating an oncogenic activation of RET that in three cases resulted in rearranged sequences provided by the same activating gene. Moreover, the DNA of the last three cases showed a biological activity in transforming NIH-3T3 cells after the DNA-mediated transfection assay, and the respective NIH-3T3 transfectants were found to express the oncogenic fusion transcripts. These results support the possibility that RET oncogenic activation could represent a major genetic lesion associated with thyroid carcinoma in children exposed to the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5617-5620
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Research
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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