Investigators: Dr Kristien Boelaert (MRC Clinician Scientist), Dr Christopher McCabe (Reader in Endocrine Cancer), Professor Jayne Franklyn (Professor of Medicine, Head of School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine)

Project Leads: Dr CJ McCabe and Dr K Boelaert

Institutions: CEDAM (Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism), School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham

Funders: Research is funded by Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the Wellcome Trust and BTF Research Award to Dr McCabe in 2008

Time scale: Research ongoing for several years. Most current research projects started in 2007 with funding for some projects available until 2013.

The research group of Dr McCabe/Dr Boelaert/Prof Franklyn at the University of Birmingham continue their investigations into the molecular pathways involved in benign (goitre) and malignant thyroid growth (thyroid cancer). Our research is funded by the MRC, the Wellcome Trust, CRUK and the BTF. Our findings indicate that two cancer causing genes namely the pituitary tumor transforming gene (PTTG) and its binding factor (PBF) are expressed at high levels in differentiated thyroid cancers and goitres. Interestingly expression of these genes is particularly high in tumours that recur early during follow-up and is associated with a reduction of expression of the molecule responsible for iodide uptake in thyroid cells, the sodium iodide symporter (NIS). Laboratory investigations have demonstrated that over-expression of PTTG and PBF result in reduced uptake of radioiodine in human thyroid cells through a number of mechanisms. Recent experiments in thyroid cells over-expressing either PTTG or PBF have confirmed reduced expression of the sodium iodide symporter and less efficient uptake of radioactive iodine in these cells. We now aim to identify strategies to overcome the repressive effect of these genes on uptake of radioiodine. Taken together these investigations may identify new ways in which we can improve the treatment of thyroid cancer as well as benign thyroid enlargement with radioactive iodine.

Dr K Boelaert

April 2010