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Cancer. 2002 Jan 15;94(2):323-30.

Very early detection of RET proto-oncogene mutation is crucial for preventive thyroidectomy in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 children: presence of C-cell malignant disease in asymptomatic carriers.

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Centro de Investgaciones Endocrinológicas, Hospital de Niños R. Gutiérrez, Buenos Aires, Argentina.



Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) is an inherited disease caused by germline mutations in the RET proto-oncogene, and is responsible for the development of endocrine neoplasia. Its prognosis is dependent on the appearance and spread of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Relatives at risk can be identified before clinical or biochemical signs of the disease become evident.


Twenty-one families with MEN 2 (16 families with MEN 2A and 5 families with MEN 2B) were studied. Peripheral blood DNA was amplified by polymerase chain reaction. DNA sequence or restriction enzyme analysis was performed to detect mutations of RET proto-oncogene exons 10, 11, and 16. Molecular analysis was carried out in all index patients as well as in 98 relatives of MEN 2A patients (60 juveniles, ages 6 months to 21 years, and 38 adults, ages 22 to 81 years) and in 13 relatives (6 juveniles ages 10 to 21 years, and 7 adults ages 41 to 66 years) from MEN 2B families.


Molecular studies showed a mutation at codon 634, exon 11 in all MEN 2A patients. All MEN 2B patients showed an ATG to ACG (Met918Thr) mutation. In MEN 2A families, 42 out of 98 relatives were affected. Total thyroidectomy was performed in 18 juvenile carriers ages 17 months to 21 years. Histopathologic studies of the glands revealed parafollicular cell (C-cell) hyperplasia in all of these carriers, medullary thyroid carcinoma in 15 carriers, and only one carrier with lymph node metastases.


The consistent finding of C-cell disease in all the juvenile carriers who underwent preventive thyroidectomy emphasizes the relevance of early screening in children at risk of developing MTC. The presence of MTC in the specimen of prophylactic thyroidectomy from a 17 month old girl highlights the importance of thyroidectomy as soon as the molecular diagnosis is confirmed.

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