Screening Fine Needle Aspirations for Specific Genetic Mutations Could Reduce Need for Thyroid Surgery

By September 22, 2012 November 7th, 2019 2012 News Releases, 82nd Annual Meeting News, News Releases, Thyroid Surgery

Falls Church, Virginia. Sep. 22, 2012 –Screening air-dried fine needle aspirations (FNA) for a panel of genetic mutations linked to follicular or papillary thyroid cancer could reduce the need for diagnostic thyroid surgery, according to data presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) in Québec City, Québec, Canada.

“The ability to detect known mutations linked to thyroid cancer through fine needle aspiration samples is an important advance that may greatly reduce the need for surgery,” said Douglas Forrest, PhD, of at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

FNA is currently the most sensitive method to select suspicious thyroid nodules for surgery but is often limited by indeterminate samples. Genetic sequencing for rearrangements (PAX8/PPARG, RET/PTC) and point mutations (BRAF, NRAS, HRAS, KRAS) has arisen as non-surgical method for the thyroid cancer diagnoses. However, until now, these aberrations have only been detected in fresh FNA samples.

A team of researchers led by Markus Eszlinger, PhD, of the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany, has now shown that the detection of these mutations is feasible using FNA smears. Researchers extracted RNA and DNA from 310 routine air-dried FNA smears (164 indeterminate, 57 malignant, 89 non-neoplastic) and corresponding formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue (FFPE) samples (156 follicular adenomas, 32 follicular thyroid carcinomas, 9 follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinomas, 44 papillary thyroid carcinomas, and 69 goiters). They identified PAX8/PPARG and RET/PTC1 rearrangements using qPCR and BRAF and NRAS and HRAS point mutations using high resolution melting (HRM)-PCR and pyrosequencing.
No KRAS mutations were detected in the FNA samples.

On average, 8% of routine FNA samples did not allow analysis of a point mutation and 3.9% did not allow analysis of a rearrangement. For the 164 indeterminate samples, BRAF mutations were detected in 1 FNA/1 FFPE sample, NRAS mutations in 12 FNA/21 FFPE samples, HRAS mutations in 3 FNA/7 FFPE samples. PAX8/PPARG was detected in 6 FNA/6
FFPE samples, while RET/PTC was not detected in any indeterminate sample.

Molecular FNA screening increased the sensitivity from 67% (cytology alone) to 75% (cytology and molecular FNA screening) in the total set. In the indeterminate set with 19 FTCs the sensitivity of detecting carcinomas and mutation positive adenomas was 48% and specificity was 99%.

About the ATA Annual Meeting 

The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association will be held Sept. 19-23, in Québec City, Québec, Canada. This four-day creative and innovative scientific program, chaired by Elizabeth Pearce, MD, Boston Medical Center, and Douglas Forrest, PhD, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, carefully balances clinical and basic science sessions on the latest advances in thyroidology. The ATA meeting is designed to offer continuing education for endocrinologists, internists, surgeons, basic scientists, nuclear medicine scientists, pathologists, endocrine fellows and nurses, physician assistants and other health care professionals. Visit for more information.

About the ATA
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the leading worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement, understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. ATA is an international individual membership organization with over 1,600 members from 43 countries around the world. Celebrating its 89th anniversary, ATA delivers its mission through several key endeavors: the publication of highly regarded monthly journals, THYROID, Clinical Thyroidology and Clinical Thyroidology for Patients; annual scientific meetings; biennial clinical and research symposia; research grant programs for young investigators, support of online professional, public and patient educational programs through; and the development of guidelines for clinical management of thyroid disease. Visit for more information.

Media Contact
Bobbi Smith
Executive Director of the American Thyroid Association