Non-invasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features (NIFTP) is an indolent thyroid tumor characterized by frequent RAS mutations and an absence of the BRAF V600E mutation commonly seen in classical papillary thyroid carcinoma (cPTC). The ability to differentiate potential NIFTP/follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPTC) from cPTC at the time of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) can facilitate conservative management of NIFTP. The aim of the current study was to investigate how molecular testing may add to cytologic assessment in the pre-operative differentiation of potential NIFTP/FVPTC and cPTC. We had previously evaluated cytologists' ability to prospectively distinguish potential NIFTP/FVPTC from cPTC in a cohort of 56 consecutive FNAs diagnosed as malignant or suspicious for malignancy. We utilized this cohort to perform molecular analysis. Detected molecular abnormalities were stratified into two groups: (1) those supporting malignancy and (2) those supporting a diagnosis of potential NIFTP/FVPTC. The cytologists' characterization of cases and the detected molecular alterations were correlated with the final histologic diagnoses. Molecular testing was performed in 52 (93%) of the 56 cases. For the 37 cases cytologists favored to be cPTC, 31 (84%) had a molecular result that supported malignancy (28 BRAF V600E mutations, 2 NTRK1 fusions, 1 AGK-BRAF fusion). For the 8 cases that were favored to be NIFTP/FVPTC by cytologists, 7 (88%) had a molecular result that supported conservative management (1 NRAS mutation, 6 wild-type result). Seven cases were designated as cytomorphologically indeterminate for NIFTP/FVPTC or cPTC, of which 6 (86%) had a molecular result that would have aided in the pre-operative assessment of potential NIFTP/FVPTC or cPTC/malignancy. These included 3 BRAF V600E mutations in nodules that were cPTC on resection, an HRAS mutation, and a wild-type result in the 2 nodules that were NIFTP, and a TERT promoter mutation along with an NRAS mutation in a poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma. For nodules with an FNA diagnosis of suspicious for malignancy or malignant, cytologists can differentiate most cases of potential NIFTP/FVPTC from cPTC. However, molecular testing may be valuable for a subset of cases, especially those that are indeterminate for potential NIFTP/FVPTC versus cPTC based on cytologic features alone.
Keywords: Cytology; Molecular testing; NIFTP; Thyroid nodules.