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Int J Oncol. 2017 Sep;51(3):760-770. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2017.4065. Epub 2017 Jul 4.

Galectin-1 is a diagnostic marker involved in thyroid cancer progression.

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Laboratory of Human Anatomy and Experimental Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, University of Mons, Mons, Belgium.
Université Lille, Inserm, CHU Lille, UMR-S 1172 - JPARC - Jean-Pierre Aubert Research Center, F-59000 Lille, France.
Institute of Physiological Chemistry, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ludwig Maximilians University, D-80539 Munich, Germany.
Department of Pathology, Hospital Erasme, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.
Laboratory of Image, Signal Processing and Acoustics (LISA), Ecole Polytechnique de Bruxelles, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, CHU Saint-Pierre, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.
Center for Microscopy and Molecular Imaging (CMMI), Gosselies, Belgium.


Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is the most commonly used pre-operative technique for diagnosis of malignant thyroid tumor. However, many benign lesions, with indeterminate diagnosis following FNA, are referred to surgery. Based on multifunctionality of the endogenous galectin-1, we aimed to assess its status for early diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Immunohistochemistry for galectin-1 and -3 was performed on a clinical series of 69 cases of thyroid lesions. Galectin-1 expression was further examined in two additional tissue microarrays (TMA) composed of 66 follicular adenomas and 66 papillary carcinomas in comparison to galectin-3 and cytokeratin-19 (CK19). In addition, a knockdown of galectin-1 in papillary (TPC-1) and anaplastic (8505C) thyroid cancer cell lines was achieved by lentiviral transduction for in vitro experiments. A murine orthotopic thyroid cancer model was used to investigate tumor growth and metastatic ability. Immunohistochemical analyses of galectin-1 and -3 in the series of 69 cases of thyroid lesions revealed that galectin-1 was completely absent in the epithelial compartment of all benign thyroid lesions. Levels of both galectins significantly increased in the cytoplasmic compartment of malignant thyroid cells. Galectin-1 expression in the TMA yielded an excellent specificity (97%), while galectin-3 and CK19 presented a higher sensitivity (>97%) in discriminating benign from malignant thyroid lesions. In vitro experiments revealed that migration was negatively affected in TPC-1 galectin-1 knockdown (KD) cells, and that proliferation and invasion capacity of 8505C cells decreased after galectin-1 KD. Moreover, an orthotopic mouse model displayed a lower rate of tumor development with galectin-1 KD thyroid anaplastic cancer cells than in the control. Our findings support the introduction of galectin-1 as a reliable diagnostic marker for thyroid carcinomas. Its involvement in cell proliferation, migration, invasion and tumor growth also intimate functional involvement of galectin-1 in the progression of thyroid carcinoma, suggesting its potential as a therapeutic target.

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