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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Aug;93(8):3106-16. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-0273. Epub 2008 May 20.

Highly prevalent genetic alterations in receptor tyrosine kinases and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/akt and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways in anaplastic and follicular thyroid cancers.

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Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Pathology, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1830 East Monument Street, Suite 333, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.



Genetic alterations in receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and MAPK pathways have not been fully defined in anaplastic and follicular thyroid cancers [anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC), follicular thyroid cancer (FTC)].


The objective of the study was to explore a wide-range genetic basis for the involvement of these pathways in ATC.


We examined mutations and copy number gains of a large panel of genes in these pathways and corresponding phosphorylation of ERK (p-ERK) and Akt.


We found frequent copy gains of RTK genes, including EGFR, PDGFRalpha and -beta, VEGFR1 and 2, KIT, and MET and in PIK3Ca, PIK3Cb, and PDK1 genes in the PI3K/Akt pathway. Mutations of Ras, PIK3Ca, PTEN, and BRAF genes and RET/PTC rearrangements were common, whereas mutations in PDK1, Akt1, Akt2, and RTK genes were uncommon in ATC. Overall, 46 of 48 ATC (95.8%) harbored at least one genetic alteration, and coexistence of two or more was seen in 37 of 48 ATC (77.1%). These genetic alterations were somewhat less common in FTC. Genetic alterations that could activate both the PI3K/Akt and MAPK pathways were found in 39 of 48 ATC (81.3%). RTK gene copy gains were preferentially associated with p-Akt, suggesting their dominant role in activating the PI3K/Akt pathway. The phosphorylation of Akt was far more common than p-ERK in FTC, and both were relatively common and often coexisted in ATC.


Genetic alterations in the RTKs and PI3K/Akt and MAPK pathways are extremely prevalent in ATC and FTC, providing a strong genetic basis for an extensive role of these signaling pathways and the development of therapies targeting these pathways for ATC and FTC, particularly the former.

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