Telomerase activity in "suspicious" thyroid cytology

Enrique Lerma, Josefina Mora
Cancer 2005 December 25, 105 (6): 492-7

BACKGROUND: Telomerase activity (TA) has been detected in most malignant neoplasms, including thyroid carcinomas. The authors studied the utility of TA detection as an ancillary tool to thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) for patients with nonconclusive cytologic diagnoses.

METHODS: Material obtained by FNA from palpable thyroid nodules in 167 consecutive patients was processed for conventional cytologic studies and simultaneously for TA study. Another 8 patients were excluded from TA because of the presence of lymphocytes. All patients with negative results cases were followed for > 1 year, and those who had tumors that were suspicious or positive by FNA or TA underwent resection for pathologic study of nodules. TA was analyzed by telomere repeat amplification protocol-polymerase chain reaction analysis.

RESULTS: After excluding 20 patients because of insufficient material for cytologic study, 120 patients had negative results for malignant cells in cytology material, and the remaining 27 patients had results that were either suspicious (n = 21 patients) or positive (n = 6 patients). Histopathologic confirmation was obtained in 23 patients, including 18 with suspicious cytology (1 with scanty material) and 5 with positive FNA. The histopathologic diagnoses were nodular hyperplasia in 5 patients, follicular adenoma in 3 patients, papillary carcinoma in 11 patients, follicular carcinoma in 1 patient, medullary carcinoma in 2 patients, and lymphoma in 1 patient. TA was detected in 6 of 18 histologically confirmed thyroid neoplasms (1 of 3 follicular adenomas, 3 of 11 papillary carcinomas, 0 of 1 follicular carcinoma, 1 of 2 medullary carcinomas, and 1 of 1 lymphoma), including 1 neoplasm with scanty atypical cells.

CONCLUSIONS: The detection of TA helped to confirm neoplasia in 6 of 23 suspicious thyroid nodules. Although it was less sensitive than FNA, TA specificity was 100% for neoplasia and 87.5% for malignancy. The sensitivity of thyroid FNA increased with the use of TA detection when cytology was nonconclusive for malignancy.

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