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J Pathol. 1998 May;185(1):71-8.

Sporadic ret-rearranged papillary carcinoma of the thyroid: a subset of slow growing, less aggressive thyroid neoplasms?

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IPATIMUP, Department of Pathology, Medical Faculty, University of Porto, Portugal.


Despite the large amount of information accumulated on the role played by ret activation in the oncogenesis of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), the biological and clinical significance of such activation 'in vivo' remains controversial. The aim of this study was to address some of the existing controversies by comparing two groups of unselected PTCs, one with and the other without ret rearrangement, with regard to several clinicopathological and biological features. Thirty-three PTCs were selected at random. ret rearrangement was found in eight cases (24.2 per cent) using Southern blot analysis. The mean age of the patients with tumours displaying ret rearrangement (28 +/- 3.1 years) was significantly lower than that of the patients harbouring cases that did not present rearrangement (45 +/- 2.9 years). The large majority of the tumours with ret rearrangement displayed a papillary or mixed follicular-papillary pattern and very low proliferative activity. ret rearrangement correlated significantly with decreased cytoplasmic expression of E-cadherin. No significant differences were found regarding the gender of the patients, tumour size, multicentricity, extrathyroidal growth, vascular invasion, lymphocytic infiltration, lymph node involvement or the expression of E-cadherin (membrane), c-erb-B2, c-met, Bcl-2, and vimentin. It is proposed that sporadic PTCs harbouring a ret rearrangement occur frequently as slow growing, papillary, or predominantly papillary tumours that do not usually progress towards less differentiated neoplasms representing what might be described as a Bonsai phenotype.

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