Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) gene expression in thyroid neoplasms

Motoyasu Saji, Steve Xydas, William H. Westra, Chien Ko Liang, Douglas P. Clark, Robert Udelsman, Christopher B. Umbricht, Saraswati Sukumar, Martha A. Zeiger

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93 Scopus citations


Ten percent of fine-needle aspirations (FNAs) of the thyroid are deemed 'indeterminate' or 'suspicious' for malignancy by the cytopathologist, but most of these lesions are benign. Therefore, additional markers of malignancy may prove to be a useful adjunct. The catalytic component of telomerase, human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), has been found to be reactivated in immortalized cell lines. Reverse transcription-PCR of the hTERT gene revealed expression in 15 (79%) of 19 malignant thyroid neoplasms, including 6 of 6 follicular carcinomas and 9 of 13 papillary carcinomas. In contrast, hTERT gene expression was detected in only 5 (28%) of 18 benign thyroid nodules, including 2 of 7 follicular adenomas and 3 of 11 hyperplastiC nodules. All five benign thyroids exhibiting hTERT gene expression had lymphocytic thyroiditis. No normal thyroids exhibited hTERT gene expresSiOn. Telomerase enzyme activity was examined in all 37 nodules and was found to correlate with hTERT gene expression in 35 (95%) nodules. The two cases in which telomerase activity and hTERT expression results were discrepant were in two papillary carcinomas that were telomerase activity negative and hTERT positive. Finally, we have demonstrated that hTERT gene expression can be measured in in vivo FNA samples. These results suggest that hTERT expression may be more accurate than telomerase activity in distinguishing benign from malignant and may be measured in FNA samples from suspicious thyroid lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1483-1489
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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