Molecular imaging with (99m)Tc-MIBI and molecular testing for mutations in differentiating benign from malignant follicular neoplasm: a prospective comparison

L Giovanella, A Campenni, G Treglia, F A Verburg, P Trimboli, L Ceriani, M Bongiovanni
European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2016, 43 (6): 1018-26

PURPOSE: To compare mutation analysis of cytology specimens and (99m)Tc-MIBI thyroid scintigraphy for differentiating benign from malignant thyroid nodules in patients with a cytological reading of follicular neoplasm.

METHODS: Patients ≥18 years of age with a solitary hypofunctioning thyroid nodule (≥10 mm), normal thyrotropin and calcitonin levels, and a cytological diagnosis of follicular neoplasm were prospectively enrolled. Mutation analysis and (99m)Tc-MIBI scintigraphy were performed and patients were subsequently operated on to confirm or exclude a malignant lesion. Mutations for KRAS, HRAS and NRAS and for BRAF and translocations of PAX8/PPARγ, RET/PTC1 and RET/PTC3 were investigated. Static thyroid scintigraphic images were acquired 10 and 60 min after intravenous injection of 200 MBq of (99m)Tc-MIBI and visually assessed. Additionally, the MIBI washout index was calculated using a semiquantitative method.

RESULTS: In our series, 26 % of nodules with a follicular pattern on cytology were malignant with a prevalence of follicular carcinomas. (99m)Tc-MIBI scintigraphy was found to be significantly more accurate (positive likelihood ratio 4.56 for visual assessment and 12.35 for semiquantitative assessment) than mutation analysis (positive likelihood ratio 1.74). A negative (99m)Tc-MIBI scan reliably excluded malignancy.

CONCLUSION: In patients with a thyroid nodule cytologically diagnosed as a follicular proliferation, semiquantitative analysis of (99m)Tc-MIBI scintigraphy should be the preferred method for differentiating benign from malignant nodules. It is superior to molecular testing for the presence of differentiated thyroid cancer-associated mutations in fine-needle aspiration cytology sample material.

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