Papillary carcinoma of the thyroid (PTC) is generally a slow growing tumor with favorable prognosis, while anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is highly aggressive malignancy. Genetic defects in apoptotic pathways may contribute to differences in their biological behavior.
In this study, we analyzed immunohistochemically the expression of apoptosis-related molecules: galectin-3, Bcl-2, survivin (antiapoptotic), and Bax (pro-apoptotic), in archival tissue sections of PTC (n = 69) and ATC (n = 30) and correlated the results with clinicopathological parameters of these tumors.
Galectin-3 and Bcl-2 showed a similar trend of down-regulation from high levels of both in PTC to low levels in ATC (p < 0.05). Bax was expressed at high levels in both type of thyroid carcinoma. Expression of survivin increased from PTC to ATC (p < 0.05), which may, at least in part, further facilitate the ability of malignant thyroid cell of ATC to escape programmed cell death despite high Bax expression. Only survivin, but not galectin-3, Bcl-2, or Bax, correlated significantly with lymph node metastasis presence and advanced stages of malignancy.
In conclusion, this study documented down-regulation of galectin-3 and Bcl-2 (antiapoptotic molecules) and stepwise increase of survivin (inhibitor of apoptosis), during thyroid tumor progression from PTC to ATC. Correlation of high survivin expression with aggressive behavior implies its role in progression of thyroid tumor malignancy and suggests that survivin could be a useful tool in the prediction of aggressiveness of a subset of papillary carcinomas and a possible target for molecular therapy for ATC patients.