Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy with an incidence which is increasing in several countries at a rate faster than any other cancer. Historical and recent nuclear accidents have been well-publicized and have been the source of ionizing radiation exposure which has resulted in localized increases of thyroid cancer. Children and young adults are at particular risk of developing thyroid cancer after such exposures. Due to the nature of their occupations and their relatively young age, many military members are at an increased risk of exposure to ionizing radiation in the course of their duties and have been shown to develop thyroid cancer at a rate higher than the general population.
Maria Cecilia F Mendonca Torres
RESEARCH & ADVANCEMENTS
Our research is focused on understanding the mutation-inducible activation of signaling pathways that drive thyroid cancer growth and metastases, and to use this knowledge to improve diagnostics, prognostics, and treatments for these cancers.
1. Identification of altered pathways in thyroid neoplasms using analysis of human samples and characterizing the functions of these altered genes/pathways using in vitro modeling
2. Discovery of therapeutic targets and re-positioning of currently available non-cancer agents for treatment of thyroid cancers
3. Analysis of genes controlling energy metabolism in thyroid cancer cells
To these ends, the Department of Pediatrics has established a network of collaborators at the National Institutes of Health, the Ohio State University, John Hopkins University, the Mediterranean University (Marseille France), The Center for Endocrine Surgery (Kiev, Ukraine) and Washington Hospital Center. We are using patient samples to refine and define the potential benefits of liquid biopsy (extraction of cell-free nucleic acids from serum/plasma for analysis) as a diagnostic and surveillance tool in the management of thyroid cancer.
We have also partnered with external facilities in the development of a patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model of poorly differentiated thyroid cancer, in the hope of using such a model in the in vivo assessment of therapeutic intervention. Our lab does work with DNA, RNA, and proteins. Our team has a world-renowned thyroid pathologist and several highly skilled laboratory personnel able to adapt evolving technologies to achieve our research goals.