GLUT1 glucose transporter expression in benign and malignant thyroid nodules

Thyroid. 1997 Jun;7(3):363-7. doi: 10.1089/thy.1997.7.363.


Malignant cells exhibit increased rates of glycolysis and glucose uptake, the latter of which is mediated by glucose transport proteins. Because several types of cancer have been shown to express high levels of the GLUT1 glucose transporter isoform, we hypothesized that expression of GLUT1 might distinguish malignant from benign thyroid tissue. Archival thyroid tissue obtained at surgery was immunostained for GLUT1 protein. There were 38 benign cases (24 follicular adenoma, 1 Hürthle cell adenoma, 8 nodular goiter, 3 Hashimoto's thyroiditis, 2 Graves' disease) and 28 cases of thyroid cancer (17 papillary and its follicular variant, 6 follicular, 1 Hurthle cell, 2 anaplastic, 2 medullary). Normal thyroid tissue adjacent to nodules showed no thyrocyte staining in any case. No GLUT1 staining was seen in thyrocytes in benign nodular tissue, except for a single case of Hashimoto's thyroiditis in which a few Hurthle cells showed weak staining. Among the thyroid cancers, 13 of 28 (46%) showed tumor cell GLUT1 staining in at least some areas. This included 9 of 17 cases of papillary carcinoma and its follicular variant, 2 of 6 cases of follicular carcinoma and 2 of 2 cases of anaplastic carcinoma. Tumor cell GLUT1 staining was seen in two patterns: circumferential plasma membrane staining focally within the tumor, or asymmetric staining of the basilar aspect of tumor cells adjacent to stroma in some cases of papillary carcinoma. We conclude that GLUT1 expression is frequently detectable by immunostaining in thyroid cancer, but not in benign nodules or normal thyroid. GLUT1 expression may be a clinically useful molecular marker for thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Formaldehyde
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Nodule / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Nodule / pathology


  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • SLC2A1 protein, human
  • Formaldehyde