Molecular markers in well-differentiated thyroid cancer

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2018 Jun;275(6):1375-1384. doi: 10.1007/s00405-018-4944-1. Epub 2018 Apr 6.


Purpose: Thyroid nodules are of common occurrence in the general population. About a fourth of these nodules are indeterminate on aspiration cytology placing many a patient at risk of unwanted surgery. The purpose of this review is to discuss various molecular markers described to date and place their role in proper perspective. This review covers the fundamental role of the signaling pathways and genetic changes involved in thyroid carcinogenesis. The current literature on the prognostic significance of these markers is also described.

Methods: PubMed was used to search relevant articles. The key terms "thyroid nodules", "thyroid cancer papillary", "carcinoma papillary follicular", "carcinoma papillary", "adenocarcinoma follicular" were searched in MeSH, and "molecular markers", "molecular testing", mutation, BRAF, RAS, RET/PTC, PAX 8, miRNA, NIFTP in title and abstract fields. Multiple combinations were done and a group of experts in the subject from the International Head and Neck Scientific Group extracted the relevant articles and formulated the review.

Results: There has been considerable progress in the understanding of thyroid carcinogenesis and the emergence of numerous molecular markers in the recent years with potential to be used in the diagnostic algorithm of these nodules. However, their precise role in routine clinical practice continues to be a contentious issue. Majority of the studies in this context are retrospective and impact of these mutations is not independent of other prognostic factors making the interpretation difficult.

Conclusion: The prevalence of these mutations in thyroid nodule is high and it is a continuously evolving field. Clinicians should stay informed as recommendation on the use of these markers is expected to evolve.

Keywords: Adenocarcinoma, follicular; Carcinoma, papillary; NIFTP; Thyroid neoplasm/diagnosis; Thyroid neoplasm/genetics; miRNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology


  • Biomarkers