Tumours derived from the thyroid follicular epithelium represent an informative model for understanding the molecular pathogenesis of multistage tumourigenesis, which is the prevailing theory on cancer development and progression nowadays. The early stages of thyroid tumour development appear to be the consequence of the activation or 'de novo' expression of several proto-oncogenes or growth factor receptors, such as ras, ret, NTRK, met, gsp and the thyrotropin (TSH) receptor. Alterations in the expression pattern of these genes are associated with the development of differentiated neoplasms, ranging from benign toxic adenomas (gsp and TSH receptor), to follicular (ras) and papillary (ret/PTC, NTRK, met) carcinomas. They may all be considered to be early events of thyroid cell transformation and, for some, experimental evidence derived from gene transfer studies supports this hypothesis. Alterations in tumour suppressor genes (p53, Rb) are associated instead with the most aggressive and poorly differentiated forms of thyroid cancer, indicating that, in the thyroid tumourigenic process, they represent late genetic events. Specific environmental factors (iodine deficiency, ionizing radiations) have been shown to play a crucial role in promoting the development of thyroid cancer, influencing both its genotypic and phenotypic features. Interestingly, a high percentage of genetic lesions causing thyroid cancer originate from gene rearrangements and chromosomal translocations (ret/PTC, NTRK, Pax-8/PPARgamma) a finding which, being a rare event in most epithelial tumours, makes the molecular pathogenesis of thyroid cancer unique. The uninterrupted flow of information on the molecular genetics of thyroid nodules and cancer will broaden the correlation between genotype and phenotype and will also provide important information for the development of more accurate preoperative diagnostic tools and more efficient treatment choices for the different forms of thyroid cancer.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)517-539
Numero di pagine23
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2000


  • DNA Methylation
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Growth Substances
  • Humans
  • Oncogenes
  • Thyroid Neoplasms
  • Thyroid Nodule


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