RAS mutations are the predominant molecular alteration in poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas and bear prognostic impact

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Dec;94(12):4735-41. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-1233. Epub 2009 Oct 16.


Context: Poorly differentiated carcinomas represent an aggressive group of thyroid tumors with controversial classification placement and poorly understood pathogenesis. Molecular data in this group of tumors are extremely heterogeneous, possibly reflecting different inclusion criteria. Recently homogeneous diagnostic criteria have been proposed by our group (Turin proposal) that need to be complemented by detailed molecular characterization.

Objective: The objective of the study was to define a comprehensive molecular typing of poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas classified following homogeneous diagnostic criteria.

Design: Sixty-five cases of poorly differentiated carcinoma selected following the Turin proposal have been screened for N-, K-, H-RAS, BRAF, RET/PTC1 and 3, and PAX8/PPARgamma mutations-rearrangements using alternative techniques and in two different laboratories. Molecular data were compared with clinical pathological parameters and survival by univariate and multivariate analysis.

Results: RAS mutations in codon 61 were by far the most common genetic alteration in poorly differentiated carcinomas (23% of cases), with all mutation in NRAS except one in the HRAS gene. A single BRAF mutation was found in a poorly differentiated carcinoma with a residual component of a tall cell variant of papillary carcinoma. No KRAS, RET/PTC, or PAX8/PPARgamma genetic alteration was detected. In this series, the presence of RAS mutations was a unique negative prognostic parameter at multivariate analysis.

Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that strictly classified poorly differentiated carcinomas are genetically homogeneous, RAS mutations being the almost exclusive genetic event. Moreover, the detection of RAS mutations might be clinically relevant for the prognostic stratification of these tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Genes, ras / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / physiology*
  • Point Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Survival
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / mortality
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*


  • DNA