What Makes One Thyroid Tumor More Aggressive Than Another Is Focus of Research
Two thyroid cancer researchers studying the molecular signals and biochemical pathways that determine the metastatic potential and aggressiveness of human thyroid tumors were awarded research grants from the American Thyroid Association (ATA) and ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. (ThyCa) in 2013. The ATA Research committee has recently reviewed their progress and approved funding for the second year grant.
Brittany Bohinc, MD, PhD, at Duke University Medical Center (Durham, NC), received funding as principal investigator of the grant entitled “Overexpression of LGR4 and LGR5 in Human Thyroid Cancer Promotes Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling and is Associated with Tumor Aggressiveness.” This study is the first to examine the role of LGR4 and LGR5 in thyroid cancer. LGR4/5 are G-coupled protein receptors over-expressed on the surface of cancer stem cells.
The receptors are activated by the ligand R-spondin and play a role in regulating the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. This pathway contributes to the development of human papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). Dr. Bohinc manipulates these pathways in the laboratory in cellular models of PTC to understand the effects on tumor behavior and to identify novel drug targets for developing therapies effective against metastatic PTC. Bio
Jennifer Morrison, MD, PhD, from the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, University of Colorado, Denver is pursuing research toward identifying the molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of aggressive thyroid tumors. Dr. Morrison received a grant award as principal investigator of the study “TXNIP as a Regulator of Thyroid Cancer Aggressiveness.” The goal of this study is to characterize the role of thioredoxin interacting protein (TXNIP) in the development and progression of advanced thyroid cancer. Dr. Morrison’s group has proposed that TXNIP is a tumor suppressor in thyroid cells and that its downregulation in thyroid cancer promotes aggressive behavior. Dr. Morrison aims to define the role of TXNIP in thyroid cancer progression by manipulating its expression levels in cell culture- and animal-based model systems. Bio
“The development of new, more effective treatments for advanced thyroid cancer is greatly needed,” says Rebecca Schweppe, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver. “The studies being conducted by Drs. Brittany Bohinc and Jennifer Morrison are helping to fill this gap by investigating the role of novel targets in thyroid cancer. Specifically, Dr. Bohinc is studying the role of LGR4/5, which is expressed on stem cells and may promote tumor aggressiveness. Dr. Morrison has identified TXNIP as a novel tumor suppressor in thyroid cancer, and is studying ways to target this novel pathway. Funding of these studies by the ATA represents a key mechanism of support to study novel therapeutic targets like LGR4/5 and TXNIP, and ultimately develop better treatments for thyroid cancer patients. ” says Rebecca Schweppe, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver.