Cancer-associated fibroblasts in papillary thyroid carcinoma

Clin Exp Med. 2023 Jan 30. doi: 10.1007/s10238-023-00998-2. Online ahead of print.


Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) has a relatively good prognosis, yet there are some invasive PTC cases with worse clinicopathological features and poor outcome. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play an important role in cancer invasion and metastasis. This study aimed to investigate the expression of marker proteins of CAFs in PTC and their correlations with clinicopathological features through immunohistochemistry. The medical records of 125 PTC patients were reviewed in this study, whose specimens were retrieved for immunohistochemistry. Four CAFs marker proteins, FAP fibroblast activated protein (FAP), α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), Vimentin and platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α(PDGFR-α), were stained and scored. Then, statistical analyses were performed. The immunoreactivity scores of FAP and α-SMA correlated with tumor size, BRAF mutation, extrathyroidal, invasion, pathological subtype, lymph node metastasis and ATA risk stratification. Moreover, binary logistic regression analysis and receiver operating characteristic curves showed that high FAP and α-SMA immunoreactivity scores were risk factors for extrathyroidal invasion, BRAF mutation, multi-focality and lymph node metastasis (especially N1b) with good sensitivity and accuracy in prediction. A better performance was found in FAP than α-SMA. Strong expressions of CAFs were risk factors for worse thyroid cancer clinicopathological features. FAP was the better CAFs marker for PTC.

Keywords: Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs); Extrathyroidal invasion; Lymph node metastasis; Multi-focality; Papillary thyroid cancer (PTC); Risk factor.