Molecular diagnostics and predictors in thyroid cancer

Thyroid. 2009 Dec;19(12):1351-61. doi: 10.1089/thy.2009.0240.


Background: The accuracy of cancer detection in thyroid nodules by fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology and prognostication of thyroid cancer needs further improvement and can benefit from testing for molecular alterations known to occur in thyroid tumors.

Summary: Recent studies have demonstrated the feasibility of mutation detection in clinical FNA samples from thyroid nodules and their contribution to improving the diagnostic accuracy of FNA cytology. It appears that molecular testing is most beneficial for thyroid FNA samples with indeterminate cytology, where it can resolve the diagnosis in a significant number of cases. In addition to BRAF mutation, which has been studied most extensively, detection of RAS, RET/PTC, and PAX8/PPARgamma mutations also contribute substantially to cancer diagnosis. Some of these molecular markers, particularly BRAF, can also be used for tumor prognostication. In clinical setting, molecular testing of thyroid FNA samples and surgically removed tumors should utilize a restricted number of techniques that provide high accuracy and specificity of mutation detection.

Conclusion: Testing for cancer-specific mutations in thyroid FNA samples and surgically removed tumor tissues increases diagnostic accuracy of FNA cytology and offers better prognostication of thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / genetics
  • Genes, ras / genetics
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • PAX8 Transcription Factor
  • PPAR gamma / genetics
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Nodule / genetics
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs
  • PAX8 Transcription Factor
  • PAX8 protein, human
  • PPAR gamma
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • RET protein, human
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf