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Thyroid. 1998 Feb;8(2):133-9.

The ret/PTC1 rearrangement is a common feature of Chernobyl-associated papillary thyroid carcinomas from Belarus.

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Institute of Genetics and Cytology, Minsk, Belarus.


An increase in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer has been documented in individuals exposed to Chernobyl fallout in 1986. Experiments using cultured human cells have suggested that radiation can induce the ret/PTC1 rearrangement involving the ret proto-oncogene. To test the hypothesis that the ret/PTC1 rearrangement is involved in the pathogenesis of Chernobyl-associated papillary thyroid carcinomas, we studied a panel of 31 cases from Belarus. All individuals lived in fallout-contaminated oblasts (regions) of Belarus at the time of the accident: Gomel (n = 13), Brest (n = 12), Minsk (n = 4), and Grodno (n = 2). All were under age 20 at the time of the accident; 20 were born between 1982 and 1986. Individual thyroid radiation doses were estimated at 1.1 to 110 rem. Patients underwent surgery in Minsk in 1996. Fifteen patients had locally advanced disease (stage T4). The majority had regional lymph node involvement (stage N1, n = 27). There were no distant metastases. Surgical specimens were frozen at -80 degrees C, RNA was extracted and cDNA prepared. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed with specific primers for ret/PTC1, and c-ret and GAPDH as controls. Controls were positive in all 31 cases. Nine cases yielded a positive PCR product for the ret/PTC1 rearrangement (29%). Thus, the ret/PTC1 rearrangement is a feature of some Chernobyl-associated papillary thyroid cancers, and is one possible mechanism involved in the pathogenesis of these cancers.

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