Genetic markers could cut thyroid cancer surgery

Diagnosing thyroid cancer can require invasive surgery, but the process could be reduced to a sample taken with a fine needle if early results from a study of genetic markers are anything to go by. The research, presented at the 82nd annual meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA), can use air-dried samples.

Fine needle aspiration is widely used to take samples to determine whether thyroid nodules are cancerous or not, but samples may be "indeterminate"--these samples are regarded as suspicious but only a minority will turn out to be cancer, and patients may go on to have unnecessary surgery.

While detecting mutations that identify cancer was thought to only be possible in fresh samples, this research has shown that the majority of air-dried samples can still be screened for genetic biomarkers, making the process of collecting and storing samples much easier.

"The ability to detect known mutations linked to thyroid cancer through fine needle aspiration samples is an important advance that may greatly reduce the need for surgery," said Douglas Forrest, of the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in a statement.

- read the press release