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Thyroid. 2019 Aug;29(8):1115-1124. doi: 10.1089/thy.2018.0733. Epub 2019 Jul 17.

Afirma Gene Sequencing Classifier Compared with Gene Expression Classifier in Indeterminate Thyroid Nodules.

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1Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism; The Ohio State University and Arthur G. James Cancer Center, Columbus, Ohio.
2Department of Biomedical Informatics, Center for Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
3Division of Surgical Oncology; The Ohio State University and Arthur G. James Cancer Center, Columbus, Ohio.
4Division of Pathology, The Ohio State University and Arthur G. James Cancer Center, Columbus, Ohio.


Background: The Afirma Gene Expression Classifier (GEC) has been used to further characterize cytologically indeterminate (cyto-I) thyroid nodules into either benign or suspicious categories. However, its relatively low positive predictive value (PPV) limited its use as a classifier for patients with suspicious results. The Afirma Gene Sequencing Classifier (GSC) was developed to improve PPV while maintaining a high negative predictive value (NPV), yet real-world assessment of its performance is lacking. Methods: We analyzed all patients who had cyto-I nodules and molecular testing with either GEC or GSC between 2011 and 2018 at a single academic medical center. Clinical information was obtained for 343 GEC-tested nodules and 164 GSC-tested nodules. Results: The GSC had a statistically significant higher benign call rate (76.2% vs. 48.1%, p < 0.001), PPV (60.0% vs. 33.3%, p = 0.01), and specificity (94.3% vs. 61.4%, p < 0.001) than the GEC. Improvement was statistically significant in both Bethesda III and Bethesda IV nodules. In particular, the benign call rate of GSC was significantly higher in nodules with Hürthle cell changes (88.8% vs. 25.7%, p < 0.01). The rate of surgical intervention in the indeterminate nodule cohort has decreased by 66.4% since switching to the GSC; 52.5% of indeterminate nodules went to surgery while using the GEC compared with 17.6% with the GSC (p < 0.001). This reduction was statistically significant in nodules with Bethesda III diagnoses, demonstrating a 70.9% decrease (GEC 51.3% vs. GSC 14.9%, p < 0.001), and in nodules with Bethesda IV cytology, a 39.2% decrease was noted (GEC 54.8% vs. GSC 33.3%, p = 0.003). Conclusions: Data from a single academic tertiary center show an improved specificity and PPV while maintaining high sensitivity and NPV for GSC compared with GEC. A statistically significant increase in benign call rates was observed in GSC compared with GEC, likely indicating fewer false positive results. After implementation of GSC, surgical interventions have been reduced by 68%.


Afirma; indeterminate thyroid nodules; molecular diagnostic testing


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