Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma Mutational Spectrum Update and Signaling-Type Inference by Transcriptional Profiles: Literature Meta-Analysis and Study of Tumor Samples

Cancers (Basel). 2022 Apr 13;14(8):1951. doi: 10.3390/cancers14081951.


Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a rare but aggressive tumor. Although RET and RAS genes are recognized drivers in MTC, associated downstream signaling pathways are largely unknown. In this study, we report 17 sporadic MTCs, collected at our institution, comprising patient-matched primary and lymph node metastatic tumors investigated for mutational and transcriptional profiles. As we identified two uncommon RET deletions (D898_E901del and E632_L633del), we also performed a literature review and meta-analysis to assess the occurrence of unconventional alterations in MTC, focusing on next-generation sequencing studies. We found that new gene alterations are emerging, along with the known RET/RAS drivers, involving not only RET by multiple concurrent mutations or deletions but also other previously underestimated cancer-related genes, especially in sporadic MTCs. In our MTC gene profiles, we found transcriptome similarity between patient-matched tissues and expression of immune genes only by a few samples. Furthermore, we defined a gene signature able to stratify samples into two distinct signaling types, termed MEN2B-like and MEN2A-like. We provide an updated overview of the MTC mutational spectrum and describe how transcriptional profiles can be used to define distinct MTC signaling subtypes that appear to be shared by various gene drivers, including the unconventional ones.

Keywords: RET deletions; genetic landscape; medullary thyroid cancer; meta-analysis; transcriptomics.