Correlation between genetic alterations and microscopic features, clinical manifestations, and prognostic characteristics of thyroid papillary carcinomas

Am J Surg Pathol. 2006 Feb;30(2):216-22. doi: 10.1097/01.pas.0000176432.73455.1b.


Papillary carcinoma is the most common type of thyroid malignancy. It has been recently shown that these tumors commonly have one of three genetic alterations: BRAF point mutations, RET/PTC rearrangements, or RAS point mutations. In this study, we analyze the relationship between these alterations and the microscopic features of papillary carcinomas, their clinical features, and prognostic characteristics. Ninety-seven papillary carcinomas were studied; in all cases, frozen tissue was available for nucleic acid extraction. Of 96 unselected cases, 42% were positive for BRAF, 18% for RET/PTC, and 15% for RAS mutations. Morphologic features were evaluated in detail in 61 cases and 6 characteristic nuclear features and 3 additional microscopic features were assessed quantitatively. At least 4 nuclear features were found in each tumor, with nuclear pseudoinclusions being the least frequent finding in all mutation groups. BRAF mutations were associated with older patient age, typical papillary appearance or the tall cell variant, a higher rate of extrathyroidal extension, and more advanced tumor stage at presentation. RET/PTC rearrangements presented at younger age and had predominantly typical papillary histology, frequent psammoma bodies, and a high rate of lymph node metastases. Tumors with RAS mutations were exclusively the follicular variant of papillary carcinoma and correlated with significantly less prominent nuclear features and low rate of lymph node metastases. These findings demonstrate that BRAF, RET/PTC, and RAS mutations are associated with distinct microscopic, clinical, and biologic features of thyroid papillary carcinomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf