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Open access

Simonetta Piana, Eleonora Zanetti, Alessandra Bisagni, Alessia Ciarrocchi, Davide Giordano, Federica Torricelli, Teresa Rossi and Moira Ragazzi

The NOTCH signaling is an evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway that regulates cell–cell interactions. NOTCH family members play a fundamental role in a variety of processes during development in particular in cell fate decisions. As other crucial factors during embryogenesis, NOTCH signaling is aberrantly reactivated in cancer where it has been linked to context-dependent effects. In thyroid cancer, NOTCH1 expression has been associated to aggressive features even if its in vivo expression within the entire spectrum of thyroid tumors has not definitively established. A series of 106 thyroid specimens including non-neoplastic lesions, benign and malignant tumors of common and rare histotypes, were investigated by immunohistochemistry to assess NOTCH1 expression. Extent of positivity and protein localization were investigated and correlated with clinical and morphological parameters. NOTCH1 positivity was predominantly associated with papillary carcinomas and only occasionally found in follicular carcinomas. Poorly differentiated and undifferentiated thyroid carcinomas showed only a partial positivity. NOTCH1 expression pattern also seemed differently distributed according to histotype. Our data confirm a role of NOTCH1 in thyroid cancer and highlight for the first time the specific involvement of this pathway in papillary carcinomas. Our data also indicate that other thyroid malignancies do not rely on NOTCH1 signaling for development and progression.

Open access

Dario de Biase, Federica Torricelli, Moira Ragazzi, Benedetta Donati, Elisabetta Kuhn, Michela Visani, Giorgia Acquaviva, Annalisa Pession, Giovanni Tallini, Simonetta Piana and Alessia Ciarrocchi

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare but highly aggressive form of thyroid cancer. By contrast, differentiated papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) only rarely behave aggressively and develop distant metastasis. Whether distantly metastatic PTC (DM-PTC) and ATC share a common genetic background is still to be defined. We used next-generation sequencing (NGS) to explore the genetic background of a cohort of ATC and DM-PTC and a group of well-differentiated PTCs that did not developed distant metastasis as control (ctrl-PTC). A panel of 128 amplicons within 21 thyroid cancer-related genes was analyzed in a set of 151 thyroid cancer samples including 66 ATCs and DM-PTCs. We showed that the ATC/DM-PTC group had an overall mutational load higher than ctrl-PTCs and that ATCs and DM-PTCs are characterized by a different genetic background, with the exception of mutations in the TERT promoter that were overrepresented in both ATCs (61.1%) and DM-PTCs (48.2%) vs non-aggressive ctrl-PTCs (7.6%). In ATCs, TERT promoter mutations were frequently associated with TP53 mutations, while in the DM-PTCs no significant co-occurrence was observed. No significant association of MED12 mutations with aggressiveness of thyroid cancer was observed in our analysis. Finally, correlation analysis showed that increasing number of mutations negatively impact on patient overall survival also within the ATC and DM-PTC group. In conclusions, overall our analysis further highlights the relevance of TERT promoter mutations in driving aggressiveness and provides new pieces of information in the definition of aggressiveness evolution of thyroid cancer lesions.