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MicroRNA expression profiling is a potential diagnostic tool for thyroid cancer.

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Approximately 30% of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies of thyroid nodules are indeterminate or nondiagnostic. Recent studies suggest microRNA (miRNA, miR) is differentially expressed in malignant tumors and may have a role in carcinogenesis, including thyroid cancer. The authors therefore tested the hypothesis that miRNA expression analysis would identify putative markers that could distinguish benign from malignant thyroid neoplasms that are often indeterminate on FNA biopsy.


A miRNA array was used to identify differentially expressed genes (5-fold higher or lower) in pooled normal, malignant, and benign thyroid tissue samples. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to confirm miRNA array expression data in 104 tissue samples (7 normal thyroid, 14 hyperplastic nodule, 12 follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer, 8 papillary thyroid cancer, 15 follicular adenoma, 12 follicular carcinoma, 12 Hurthle cell adenoma, 20 Hurthle cell carcinoma, and 4 anaplastic carcinoma cases), and 125 indeterminate clinical FNA samples. The diagnostic accuracy of differentially expressed genes was determined by analyzing receiver operating characteristics.


Ten miRNAs showed >5-fold expression difference between benign and malignant thyroid neoplasms on miRNA array analysis. Four of the 10 miRNAs were validated to be significantly differentially expressed between benign and malignant thyroid neoplasms by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (P < .002): miR-100, miR-125b, miR-138, and miR-768-3p were overexpressed in malignant samples of follicular origin (P < .001), and in Hurthle cell carcinoma samples alone (P < .01). Only miR-125b was significantly overexpressed in follicular carcinoma samples (P < .05). The accuracy for distinguishing benign from malignant thyroid neoplasms was 79% overall, 98% for Hurthle cell neoplasms, and 71% for follicular neoplasms. The miR-138 was overexpressed in the FNA samples (P = .04) that were malignant on final pathology with an accuracy of 75%.


MicroRNA expression differs for normal, benign, and malignant thyroid tissue. Expression analysis of differentially expressed miRNA could help distinguish benign from malignant thyroid neoplasms that are indeterminate on thyroid FNA biopsy.

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