Mutated gene may induce development of thyroid cancer

Scientists at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a gene called PTEN that may induce the development of thyroid cancer when mutated.

Although it normally protects the body against disease, PTEN causes Cowden syndrome in those who inherit a mutated copy. This condition increases a person’s susceptibility of developing cancer of the thyroid gland, among other health complications.

Gustavo Leone, the study’s principal investigator, examined mice with three different PTEN mutants. They found that each mutation affected the animals differently and produced varying degrees of cancer susceptibility.

The first version completely disabled PTEN, leading to cancer. The second version produced a protein that was even more active than the normal version of PTEN, and sometimes caused cancer. The third version didn’t cause cancer at all.

“Mutations in this gene also play a role in developmental disabilities and perhaps in autism, so this mouse model might be useful for studies in those conditions as well,” says Michael Ostrowski, professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry.

In humans with Cowden syndrome, researchers have found that females are more likely to develop thyroid cancer than males.