RET/PTC oncogene activation defines a subset of papillary thyroid carcinomas lacking evidence of progression to poorly differentiated or undifferentiated tumor phenotypes

Giovanni Tallini, Massimo Santoro, Mary Helie, Francesca Carlomagno, Giuliana Salvatore, Gennaro Chiappetta, Maria Luisa Carcangiu, Alfredo Fusco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Malignant tumors of the thyroid gland vary considerably in aggressiveness, ranging from a well-differentiated, clinically indolent, to an undifferentiated, often lethal phenotype. Undifferentiated (anaplastic) thyroid tumors are supposed to be derived, through a process of progression, from previously differentiated neoplasms. A common genetic alteration in thyroid tumors is the rearrangement of the tyrosine kinase-encoding RET proto-oncogene, leading to the generation of chimeric RET/PTC oncogenes. To define the characteristics of the thyroid tumor subset with RET rearrangements, we have investigated its activation by a combined immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription-PCR approach in a series of 316 well-characterized thyroid tumors representative of the main diagnostic groups. RET activation was detected in 81 of 201 (40.3%) papillary carcinomas. It correlated with tumors exhibiting the 'classic' morphological features of papillary cancer or with the microcarcinoma subtype (P = 0.017). RET activation in papillary carcinoma was not associated with clinical markers (such as large tumor size, extrathyroidal extension, or metastases) of increased morbidity. Follicular-type neoplasms (61 adenomas and 22 carcinomas), as well as the aggressive poorly differentiated (15 cases) or undifferentiated (anaplastic) carcinomas (17 cases), were negative. This study demonstrates that all thyroid carcinomas harboring activating RET rearrangements exhibit a well-differentiated phenotype, that of papillary carcinoma, and indicates that the subset of RET/PTC-positive papillary carcinomas do not progress to more aggressive, less differentiated tumor phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Volume4
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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