The Oncocytic Variant of Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma Shows a Specific Immune-Related Gene Expression Profile

Jasna Metovic, Chiara Vignale, Laura Annaratone, Simona Osella-Abate, Francesca Maletta, Ida Rapa, Francesco Cabutti, Silvia Patriarca, Marco Gallo, Yuri E Nikiforov, Marco Volante, Mauro Papotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Poorly differentiated thyroid cancer (PDTC) is a rare, follicular cell-derived neoplasm with an unfavorable prognosis. The oncocytic variant of PDTC may be associated with even more adverse outcome than classical PDTC cases, but its specific molecular features are largely unknown. Our aim was to explore the immune-related gene expression profile of oncocytic and classical PDTC, in correlation with clinical and pathological characteristics (including programmed death ligand 1 [PD-L1] expression) and outcome, and in comparison with a control group of well-differentiated follicular carcinomas (WDFCs), including conventional follicular carcinomas (FTCs) and Hürthle cell carcinomas (HCCs).

METHODS: A retrospective series of 48 PDTCs and 24 WDFCs was analyzed by means of NanoString technology employing the nCounter PanCancer Immune Profiling panel. Gene expression data were validated using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

RESULTS: Oncocytic PDTCs showed a specific immune-related gene expression profile, with higher expression of LAIR2, CD274, DEFB1, IRAK1, CAMP, LCN2, LY96, and APOE, and lower expression of NOD1, as compared to conventional PDTCs. This molecular signature was associated with increased intratumoral lymphocytic infiltration, PD-L1 expression, and adverse outcome. Three of these genes, CD274, DEFB1, and IRAK1, as well as PD-L1 expression, were also the hallmarks of HCCs as compared to FTCs. By contrast, the panel of genes differentially regulated in PDTCs as compared to WDFCs was unrelated to the oncocytic phenotype.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results revealed a distinctive immune-related gene expression profile of oncocytic PDTC and confirmed a more aggressive outcome in this cancer subtype. These findings may provide guidance when exploring novel immunotherapeutic options for oncocytic PDTC patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2020


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