Clinical Routine TERT Promoter Mutational Screening of Follicular Thyroid Tumors of Uncertain Malignant Potential (FT-UMPs): A Useful Predictor of Metastatic Disease

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Sep 26;11(10):1443. doi: 10.3390/cancers11101443.


Mutations of the Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene promoter are recurrently found in follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) and follicular tumors of uncertain malignant potential (FT-UMP), but nearly never in follicular thyroid adenoma (FTA). We, therefore, believe these mutations could signify malignant potential. At our department, postoperative TERT promoter mutational testing of FT-UMPs was implemented in 2014, with a positive mutation screening leading to vigilant follow-up and sometimes adjuvant treatment. To date, we screened 51 FT-UMPs and compared outcomes to 40 minimally invasive FTCs (miFTCs) with known TERT genotypes. Eight FT-UMPs (16%) displayed TERT promoter mutations, of which four cases underwent a completion lobectomy at the discretion of the patient, and a single patient also opted in for radioiodine (RAI) treatment. Three mutation-positive patients developed distant metastases, registered in one patient receiving a completion lobectomy and in two patients with no additional treatment. Three out of four patients who received additional surgery, including the RAI-treated patient, are still without metastatic disease. We conclude that FT-UMPs with TERT promoter mutations harbor malignant potential and exhibit at least similar recurrence rates to TERT-promoter-mutated miFTCs. Mutational screening should constitute a cornerstone analysis in the histopathological work-up of FT-UMPs.

Keywords: FT-UMP; TERT; clinical screening; prognosis; promoter mutation; thyroid cancer.