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Am J Pathol. 1995 Sep;147(3):815-22.

Differential expression of galectin-1 and galectin-3 in thyroid tumors. Potential diagnostic implications.

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Department of Tumor Biology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


Carcinoma of the thyroid gland, the most frequently diagnosed endocrine malignancy, is often associated with early regional metastases. With the exception of papillary carcinoma, distinguishing benign from malignant thyroid neoplasms in the absence of metastatic disease is difficult. Recently, the vertebrate lectins galectin-1 and galectin-3 have been implicated in the regulation of cellular growth, differentiation, and malignant transformation of a variety of tissues. To determine whether these galectins have a role in thyroid neoplasia, we analyzed 32 specimens from thyroid malignancies (16 papillary, 7 follicular, 8 medullary carcinomas, and 1 metastasis to lymph node), 10 benign thyroid adenomas, 1 nodular goiter, and 33 specimens from adjacent normal thyroid tissue for the expression of galectin-1 and galectin-3 with immunohistochemical and immunoblotting techniques utilizing anti-galectin antibodies. All thyroid malignancies of epithelial origin (ie, papillary and follicular carcinomas) and a metastatic lymph node from a papillary carcinoma expressed high levels of both galectin-1 and galectin-3. The medullary thyroid carcinomas, which are of parafollicular C cell origin, showed a weaker and variable expression of these galectins. In contrast, neither benign thyroid adenomas nor adjacent normal thyroid tissue expressed galectin-1 or galectin-3. These results suggest that galectin-1 and galectin-3 may be associated with malignant transformation of thyroid epithelium and may potentially serve as markers for distinguishing benign thyroid adenomas from differentiated thyroid carcinomas.

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