Background: In their previous analysis of papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs) from an Ukrainian-American cohort that was exposed to iodine-131 ((131) I) from the Chernobyl accident, the authors identified RET/PTC rearrangements and other driver mutations in 60% of tumors.
Methods: In this study, the remaining mutation-negative tumors from that cohort were analyzed using RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction to identify novel chromosomal rearrangements and to characterize their relation with radiation dose.
Results: The ETS variant gene 6 (ETV6)-neurotrophin receptor 3 (NTRK3) rearrangement (ETV6-NTRK3) was identified by RNA-Seq in a tumor from a patient who received a high (131) I dose. Overall, the rearrangement was detected in 9 of 62 (14.5%) post-Chernobyl PTCs and in 3 of 151 (2%) sporadic PTCs (P = .019). The most common fusion type was between exon 4 of ETV6 and exon 14 of NTRK3. The prevalence of ETV6-NTRK3 rearrangement in post-Chernobyl PTCs was associated with increasing (131) I dose, albeit at borderline significance (P = .126). The group of rearrangement-positive PTCs (ETV6-NTRK3, RET/PTC, PAX8-PPARγ) was associated with significantly higher dose response compared with the group of PTCs with point mutations (BRAF, RAS; P < .001). In vitro exposure of human thyroid cells to 1 gray of (131) I and γ-radiation resulted in the formation of ETV6-NTRK3 rearrangement at a rate of 7.9 × 10(-6) cells and 3.0 × 10(-6) cells, respectively.
Conclusions: The authors report the occurrence of ETV6-NTRK3 rearrangements in thyroid cancer and demonstrate that this rearrangement is significantly more common in tumors associated with exposure to (131) I and has a borderline significant dose response. Moreover, ETV6-NTRK3 rearrangement can be directly induced in thyroid cells by ionizing radiation in vitro and, thus, may represent a novel mechanism of radiation-induced carcinogenesis.
Keywords: Chernobyl; NTRK3; chromosomal rearrangements; radiation; thyroid cancer.
© 2013 American Cancer Society.