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What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer develops in the follicular cells of the thyroid. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck below the voice box. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. It is estimated that approximately 45,000 Americans were diagnosed and about 1,700 died from thyroid cancer in 2010.1 Papillary thyroid carcinoma, the type being studied by TCGA, is the most common type of thyroid cancer, accounting for 80 percent of all cases. It is diagnosed most commonly in patients who are around the age of 49 and it is more common in women.1 Thyroid cancer grows very slowly and if it is diagnosed early, this cancer can be cured. View additional information about thyroid cancer.
What have The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) researchers learned about thyroid cancer?
TCGA researchers have:
- Provided insight into the molecular alterations that drive papillary thyroid carcinoma
- Identified oncogenic drivers in 96.5 percent of tumor samples
- Confirmed that the majority of papillary thyroid carcinomas are driven by mutations in either BRAF (specifically BRAFV600E) or RAS, both of which deregulate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway
- Found novel papillary thyroid carcinoma driving gene EIF1AX that impairs the MAPK pathway and is mutually exclusive from BRAF and RAS mutations
- Suggested potential refinement of the classification of papillary thyroid carcinomas to include a tumor’s likeness to BRAFV600E driven tumors versus RAS driven tumors
- BRAFV600E driven tumors and RAS driven tumors showed distinct molecular profiles that differentially affect downstream signaling: BRAFV600E driven tumors demonstrate high MAPK-signaling while RAS driven tumors demonstrate lower MAPK-signaling
- Created a scoring system called the thyroid differentiation score that correlates strongly with whether tumors are BRAFV600E driven or RAS driven
- Found unprecedented heterogeneity of gene expression within the BRAFV600E subtype suggesting this subtype may require further stratification to gain high prognostic value
- Identified potential therapeutic avenues based on the molecular features of papillary thyroid carcinomas
- BRAFV600E and RAS driven tumors may respond differently to treatments such as radioactive iodine and targeted therapy, suggesting that identifying the driver mutation could help clinicians determine which treatments would be most effective
Where can I find more information about the TCGA Research Network’s studies or studies using TCGA data?
Where can I find clinical trials to treat thyroid cancer that are supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?
View a list of NCI-supported thyroid cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients.
1American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2010. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2010.