Human pathology

The PDCD4/miR-21 pathway in medullary thyroid carcinoma.

PMID 25316501


Programmed cell death 4 (PDCD4) is a tumor suppressor gene involved in tumorogenesis. MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) specifically targets PDCD4, and recent studies suggest that PDCD4 is also regulated by Akt (antiapoptotic regulator within phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase). Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a rare neuroendocrine cancer, and disease stage at diagnosis represents the main prognostic indicator. A consecutive series of 64 MTCs was considered. REarranged during Transfection (RET) and rat sarcoma (RAS) mutation status was assessed by direct sequencing. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify mature hsa-miR-21. PDCD4 and Ki-67 immunostaining was performed with an automated platform. Immunoblot analysis of PI3K/Akt pathway was done on thyroid tissues. MTCs were consistently associated with miR-21 up-regulation (P < .0016) and featured significant PDCD4 nuclear down-regulation. An inverse correlation emerged between miR-21 overexpression and PDCD4 down-regulation (P = .0013). At enrollment, high miR-21 levels were associated with high calcitonin levels (P = .0003), lymph node metastases (P = .001), and advanced stages (P = .0003). At the end of follow-up, high miR-21 levels were associated with biochemically persistent disease (P = .0076). At enrollment, instead, PDCD4 nuclear down-regulation was associated with high calcitonin levels (P = .04), more advanced stages of disease (P < .01), and persistent disease after the follow-up (P = .02). p-Akt was more expressed in RAS-mutated MTC than in nonmutated cancers and normal tissue. This study showed, in MTCs, that miR-21 regulates PDCD4 expression and also that the miR-21/PDCD4 pathway correlates with clinicopathological variables and prognosis. Further studies should investigate the role of miR-21 as a prognostic biomarker and the feasibility of using PDCD4-restoring strategies as a therapeutic approach to MTC.