Application of molecular biology of differentiated thyroid cancer for clinical prognostication

    1. Antongiulio Faggiano3
    1. 1IOS & COLEMAN Srl, Naples, Italy
    2. 2Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Federico II University, Naples, Italy
    3. 3Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery Unit, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori-IRCCS “Fondazione G. Pascale”, Naples, Italy
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to V Marotta; Email: vinc.endo{at}


    Although cancer outcome results from the interplay between genetics and environment, researchers are making a great effort for applying molecular biology in the prognostication of differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). Nevertheless, role of molecular characterisation in the prognostic setting of DTC is still nebulous. Among the most common and well-characterised genetic alterations related to DTC, including mutations of BRAF and RAS and RET rearrangements, BRAFV600E is the only mutation showing unequivocal association with clinical outcome. Unfortunately, its accuracy is strongly limited by low specificity. Recently, the introduction of next-generation sequencing techniques led to the identification of TERT promoter and TP53 mutations in DTC. These genetic abnormalities may identify a small subgroup of tumours with highly aggressive behaviour, thus improving specificity of molecular prognostication. Although knowledge of prognostic significance of TP53 mutations is still anecdotal, mutations of the TERT promoter have showed clear association with clinical outcome. Nevertheless, this genetic marker needs to be analysed according to a multigenetic model, as its prognostic effect becomes negligible when present in isolation. Given that any genetic alteration has demonstrated, taken alone, enough specificity, the co-occurrence of driving mutations is emerging as an independent genetic signature of aggressiveness, with possible future application in clinical practice. DTC prognostication may be empowered in the near future by non-tissue molecular prognosticators, including circulating BRAFV600E and miRNAs. Although promising, use of these markers needs to be refined by the technical sight, and the actual prognostic value is still yet to be validated.

    • Received 24 August 2016
    • Accepted 30 August 2016
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 30 August 2016
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