Cancerous or harmless? Three genes might tell the tale

COLUMBUS, Ohio New research suggests that physicians can distinguish between a type of thyroid cancer and an identical-looking, non-cancerous thyroid condition by simply determining the activity of three genes.

The findings could lead to a test that will prevent the needless loss of the thyroid gland in people with the noncancerous condition.

The study, led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, indicates that the activity levels of three genes cyclin D2, PCSK2 (for protein convertase 2) and PLAB (prostate differentiation factor) -- might distinguish the noncancerous condition known as follicular adenoma (FA) from follicular thyroid cancer (FTC).

The findings, published online by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, also provide insight into the genetic changes that occur in those cases when FA becomes FTC.

"Presently, doctors cannot distinguish between these two conditions without surgical removal of the thyroid, even though only about 10 percent of cases prove to be cancerous," says principal investigator Charis Eng, director of OSU's clinical cancer genetics program. "Follicular adenoma often does not require surgery, and certainly not as extensive as for a cancer."

"This is the first step in determining whether we can use these three genes as an objective way to tell whether a patient has cancer or simply a benign adenoma before sending that person to surgery," says Eng, holder of the Klotz Chair in Cancer Research and a recipient of the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award.

An estimated 25,690 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year, and an estimated 2,370 people will die of the disease. The great majority of thyroid cancers begin as thyroid nodules, which develop in about 7 percent of adult Americans (about 275,000 people in 1999).

To determine if

Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Ohio State University

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