Another Try At Reducing Thyroid Removals

Thyroid cancer testing method to find possible cancer biomarker

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Italian scientists used a super microscope to find a particular protein that may be associated with thyroid cancer. They found it, but is it really an accurate indicator for cancer?

A recent study tested a focused diagnostic method for picking up a biomarker associated with follicular thyroid cancer. While the method was able to find the biomarker, how effective that biomarker was in predicting cancer remains uncertain.

This and other research is aimed at reducing unnecessary surgical removal of the thyroid glands—just to diagnose thyroid cancer.

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Ferdinando Papale from the Department of Anaesthesiological, Surgical and Emergency Sciences at Second University of Naples in Italy, led an investigation into thyroid cancer diagnostics.

The purpose of this study was to test whether the presence of the protein, galectin-3, is an indicator of potentially cancerous lesions in thyroid glands.

For the study, researchers tested samples from 183 patients who had undergone thyroid fine needle aspiration cytology (t-FNAC) for a specific protein called galectin-3.

T-FNAC is where a hollow needle is inserted into the thyroid to remove a small bit of tissue to test, or biopsy, it for the detection of cancer.

Not all abnormalities found on thyroid glands are cancerous, but most must be tested just in case. The difficulty lies in telling the difference between non-cancerous follicles and cancerous lesions, especially in the early stages.

Being able to better detect cancerous lesions from benign (non-cancerous) follicles could prevent the unnecessary removal of the thyroid glands.

Unnecessary surgeries are costly and removal of the thyroid may require lifelong thyroid replacement medication.

In this study, researchers used Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy Immunogold Labelling (ESEM-IGL) to locate galectin-3 from the tissue samples.

Results showed that ESEM-IGL was able to accurately detect galectin-3 61 percent of the time.

Authors concluded that their testing and diagnostic levels were successful in showing galectin-3 “clearly, even through the individual cells of the thyroid nodule”.

However, galectin-3 alone was not necessarily found to be a fool-proof marker for thyroid cancer.

Further research is warranted on the identifying of thyroid cancer markers and the procedures used to identify them.

These efforts will help lower the incidence of unnecessary removal of thyroid glands.

This study was published in October in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

No funding information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 11, 2012
Last Updated:
October 13, 2012