TERT Promoter Mutation Spatial Heterogeneity in a Metastatic Follicular Thyroid Carcinoma: Implications for Clinical Work-Up

Endocr Pathol. 2019 Sep;30(3):246-248. doi: 10.1007/s12022-019-09580-7.


Follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) is not routinely diagnosed by a preoperative fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), and the final diagnosis relies on histopathological criteria visible upon microscopic examination of the excised tumor. Several markers have been proposed as helpful in the identification of follicular thyroid tumors with malignant potential and worse prognosis, of which the specific point mutations C250T and C228T in the Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (TERT) promoter region seem to be particularly promising. We describe a patient presenting with a large pelvic mass, in which a core needle biopsy was consistent with follicular-patterned thyroid tissue positive for a Q61R NRAS mutation and the C228T TERT promoter mutation. Upon clinical investigation, a 60-mm lesion was detected in the right thyroid lobe. The ensuing FNAB was consistent with a follicular thyroid tumor, Bethesda IV, positive for the same NRAS mutation and both the C228T and C250T TERT promoter mutations. A total thyroidectomy was performed, and a widely invasive FTC was diagnosed. Tumor tissue samples from various parts of the primary lesion were investigated for TERT promoter mutations, displaying C228T in three samples and C250T in one. Interestingly, the C228T mutations showed a coupling to areas with high Ki-67 proliferation indexes. Our data indicate that TERT promoter mutations can exhibit spatial heterogeneity in FTCs, with implications for clinical management as well as providing insights into the molecular biology underlying the tumoral etiology.

Keywords: Metastasis; Mutation; Spatial heterogeneity; TERT; Thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnosis
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / surgery
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Endocrine
  • Female
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Point Mutation*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Telomerase / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery


  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase