The clinical behavior of thyroid cancers is seen to reflect inherent transcriptional activities of mutated genes and trophic effects on tumors of circulating pituitary thyrotropin (TSH). The thyroid hormone, L-thyroxine (T4), has been shown to stimulate proliferation of a large number of different forms of cancer. This activity of T4 is mediated by a cell surface receptor on the extracellular domain of integrin αvβ3. In this brief review, we describe what is known about T4 as a circulating trophic factor for differentiated (papillary and follicular) thyroid cancers. Given T4′s cancer-stimulating activity in differentiated thyroid cancers, it was not surprising to find that genomic actions of T4 were anti-apoptotic. Transduction of the T4-generated signal at the integrin primarily involved mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). In thyroid C cell-origin medullary carcinoma of the thyroid (MTC), effects of thyroid hormone analogues, such as tetraiodothyroacetic acid (tetrac), include pro-angiogenic and apoptosis-linked genes. Tetrac is an inhibitor of the actions of T4 at αvβ3, and it is assumed, but not yet proved, that the anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic actions of tetrac in MTC cells are matched by T4 effects that are pro-angiogenic and anti-apoptotic. We also note that papillary thyroid carcinoma cells may express the leptin receptor, and circulating leptin from adipocytes may stimulate tumor cell proliferation. Transcription was stimulated by leptin in anaplastic, papillary, and follicular carcinomas of genes involved in invasion, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). In summary, thyroid hormone analogues may act at their receptor on integrin αvβ3 in a variety of types of thyroid cancer to modulate transcription of genes relevant to tumor invasiveness, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. These effects are independent of TSH.
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