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New insight into how anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) grows and spreads may provide important direction in the development of treatment. These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The thyroid is a gland in the throat that produces hormones mostly related to metabolic processes in the body. There are different types of thyroid cancer, depending upon the type of cell within the thyroid in which the cancer originates.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a rare type of thyroid cancer that is very aggressive. Cure rates for advanced anaplastic thyroid cancer remain poor, and novel therapeutic agents continue to be evaluated in clinical trials for this disease. The process behind tumor growth in ATC is not well understood.

Two proteins known to be involved in the development of some forms of cancer—S100A8 and S100A9—may be involved in the growth of ATC. Researchers have conducted a study to evaluate the potential role of these proteins in ATC growth and spread.

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Using several processes to identify and measure S100A8 and S100A9 in patients with ATC, the researchers determined that the proteins were overexpressed in ATC. S100A8 and S100A9 were not, however, overexpressed in other types of thyroid cancer.

When the researchers used mice to further explore the role of S100A8 and S100A9 in ATC, they found more evidence of a link. When they reduced levels of the protein S100A8 in the mouse samples, tumor growth was reduced, along with lung metastasis, and the mice survived longer. When they further investigated the process behind the growth and spread of ATC, they found that S100A8 was linked with certain signaling pathways (how cancer cells receive signals that tell them to divide) in tumor cells.

These findings provide important insight into the processes behind the growth and spread of ATC—namely that the protein S100A8 appears to play an important role. Studies into inhibition of S100A8 may give researchers a promising direction toward developing effective treatment for ATC.

Reference: Reeb AN, Li W, Sewell W, Marlow LA, et al. S100A8 Is a Novel Therapeutic Target for Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2015 Feb;100(2):E232-42. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-2988.

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