Validation of molecular biomarkers for preoperative diagnostics of human papillary thyroid carcinoma in fine needle aspirates

Gland Surg. 2019 Aug;8(Suppl 2):S62-S76. doi: 10.21037/gs.2018.11.04.


Background: Despite substantial efforts, reliable preoperative diagnostic for human thyroid malignancies in case of cytologically indeterminate nodules is still missing, resulting in high number of unnecessary thyroidectomies. In an attempt to increase precision of existing preoperative diagnostics, we aimed at validating the panel of molecular biomarkers predictive for papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) in preoperative fine needle aspirate (FNA) samples.

Methods: In this prospective study conducted in preoperative thyroid FNA from 44 thyroid nodules, expression levels of 11 molecular biomarkers previously validated on the postoperative samples of PTCs were measured by Cell-to-CT and QuantiGene Plex methods and correlated with final diagnosis.

Results: The QuantiGene Plex resulted in reliable gene expression measurements for FNA and core-needle biopsy (CNB) samples, however this method was less sensitive than pre-amplification based Cell-to-CT. Measurements conducted on the same samples by the two methods significantly correlated for most of the genes. Expression levels of TIMP1, c-MET and ARNTL were upregulated in PTC nodules as compared to benign counterparts, supporting previous post-operative studies. Strong correlation was observed between these biomarker alterations in the same samples. Within the sub-group of 15 indeterminate nodules (Bethesda II-V), TIMP1 had 100% specificity and 83% sensitivity for PTC cases.

Conclusions: Assessment of TIMP1, c-MET and core-clock gene ARNTL expression levels by QuantiGene Plex assay in FNA samples holds promise as an ancillary method to the cytological preoperative diagnostics.

Keywords: Papillary thyroid cancer (PTC); biomarkers; fine needle aspirates (FNAs); preoperative diagnostics.