Follicular epithelial cell-derived thyroid tumors are common neoplasms comprised mainly of benign thyroid adenomas, follicular thyroid cancers, and papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs). Hypermethylation of the tumor suppressor gene RASSF1A and activating mutation of BRAF gene have been reported recently in thyroid cancers. To additionally investigate the roles of these two epigenetic/genetic alterations in thyroid tumor progression, we examined their occurrences and relationship in both benign and malignant thyroid neoplasms. With real-time quantitative methylation-specific PCR, we found that 4 of 9 (44%) benign adenomas, 9 of 12 (75%) follicular thyroid cancers tumors, and 6 of 30 (20%) of PTC tumors harbored promoter methylation in ≥25% of RASSF1A alleles. Additional quantitative analysis revealed RASSF1A methylation only in BRAF mutation-negative PTCs. A similar inverse correlation of RASSF1A methylation with BRAF mutation was seen in thyroid tumor cell lines. Our results, therefore, suggest that epigenetic inactivation of RASSF1A through aberrant methylation is an early step in thyroid tumorigenesis. Like the previously reported mutually exclusive relationship between BRAF mutation and other Ras pathway components such as RET/PTC rearrangement, a mutually exclusive relationship also exists between BRAF mutation and RASSF1A methylation in thyroid tumorigenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research