Genetic alteration is the driving force for thyroid tumorigenesis and progression, based upon which novel approaches to the management of thyroid cancer can be developed. A recent important genetic finding in thyroid cancer is the oncogenic T1799A transversion mutation of BRAF (the gene for the B-type Raf kinase, BRAF). Since the initial report of this mutation in thyroid cancer 2 years ago, rapid advancements have been made. BRAF mutation is the most common genetic alteration in thyroid cancer, occurring in about 45% of sporadic papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs), particularly in the relatively aggressive subtypes, such as the tall-cell PTC. This mutation is mutually exclusive with other common genetic alterations, supporting its independent oncogenic role, as demonstrated by transgenic mouse studies that showed BRAF mutation-initiated development of PTC and its transition to anaplastic thyroid cancer. BRAF mutation is mutually exclusive with RET/PTC rearrangement, and also displays a reciprocal age association with this common genetic alteration in thyroid cancer. The T1799A BRAF mutation occurs exclusively in PTC and PTC-derived anaplastic thyroid cancer and is a specific diagnostic marker for this cancer when identified in cytological and histological specimens. This mutation is associated with a poorer clinicopathological outcome and is a novel independent molecular prognostic marker in the risk evaluation of thyroid cancer. Moreover, preclinical and clinical evaluations of the therapeutic value of novel specific mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway inhibitors in thyroid cancer are anticipated. This newly discovered BRAF mutation may prove to have an important impact on thyroid cancer in the clinic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Cancer Research