Molecular testing in the diagnosis of differentiated thyroid carcinomas

Silvia Martina Ferrari, Poupak Fallahi, Ilaria Ruffilli, Giusy Elia, Francesca Ragusa, Sabrina Rosaria Paparo, Salvatore Ulisse, Enke Baldini, Riccardo Giannini, Paolo Miccoli, Alessandro Antonelli, Fulvio Basolo


Different genetic mutations and other molecular alterations in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) and follicular thyroid cancer (FTC) can be detected in fine-needle aspiration (FNA) of thyroid nodules, and can be used successfully to ameliorate cancer diagnosis and management of patients with thyroid nodules. The greatest experience has been obtained with the diagnostic use of BRAF mutation that is strongly specific for malignancy when detected using well-validated techniques. The strongest diagnostic result can be obtained testing FNA samples for a panel of mutations that typically involve TERT, BRAF, PAX8/PPARγ, RAS, and RET/PTC. Finding any of these mutations in a thyroid nodule provides strong indication for malignancy and helps to refine clinical management for a significant proportion of patients with indeterminate cytology. The use of molecular markers, as TERT, BRAF, PAX8/PPARγ, RAS, and RET/PTC, may be considered for patients with indeterminate FNA cytology (FNAC) to help guide management. In patients with indeterminate TIR3 FNA, the combination of precise molecular marker expression analysis with molecular mutations evaluations could ameliorate significantly the accuracy of cancer diagnosis. However other prospective studies are needed to identify more accurate molecular markers. Finally, the knowledge of these molecular pathways has permitted the development of new targeted therapies for aggressive TC.