Aberrant lipid metabolism in anaplastic thyroid carcinoma reveals stearoyl CoA desaturase 1 as a novel therapeutic target

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 May;100(5):E697-709. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2764. Epub 2015 Feb 12.


Context: Currently there are no efficacious therapies for patients with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) that result in long-term disease stabilization or regression.

Objective: We sought to identify pathways critical for ATC cell progression and viability in an effort to develop new therapeutic strategies. We investigated the effects of targeted inhibition of stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1), a constituent of fatty acid metabolism overexpressed in ATC.

Design: A gene array of ATC and normal thyroid tissue was performed to identify gene transcripts demonstrating altered expression in tumor samples. Effects of pharmacological and the genetic inhibition of SCD1 on tumor cell viability as well as cell signaling responses to therapy were evaluated in in vitro and in vivo models of this rare, lethal malignancy.

Results: The gene array analysis revealed consistent distortion of fatty acid metabolism and overexpression of SCD1 in ATC and well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas. SCD1 is critical for ATC cell survival and proliferation, the inhibition of which induced endoplasmic reticulum stress, activation of the unfolded protein response, and apoptosis. Combined suppression of endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation, a prosurvival component of the unfolded protein response, using proteasome inhibitors resulted in a synergistic decrease in tumor cell proliferation and increased cell death.

Conclusions: SCD1 is a novel oncogenic factor specifically required for tumor cell viability in ATC. Furthermore, the expression of SCD1 appears to be correlated with thyroid tumor aggressiveness and may serve as a prognostic biomarker. These findings substantiate SCD1 as a novel tumor-specific target for therapy in patients with ATC and should be further investigated in a clinical setting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics*
  • Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase / genetics
  • Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Carcinoma, Anaplastic / genetics
  • Thyroid Carcinoma, Anaplastic / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Carcinoma, Anaplastic / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tissue Array Analysis


  • Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase