Year of Publication
INTRODUCTION: The diagnostic utility of molecular profiling for the evaluation of indeterminate pediatric thyroid nodules is unclear. We aimed to assess pediatric cases with indeterminate thyroid fine-needle aspiration (FNA) alongside clinicopathologic features and mutational analysis.
METHODS: A retrospective review of 126 patients with indeterminate cytology who underwent FNA between January 2010 and December 2021 at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was performed. Indeterminate cases defined by The Bethesda System for Reporting Thyroid Cytopathology (AUS/FLUS or TBSRTC III; FN/SFN or TBSRTC IV; SM or TBSRTC V) were correlated to clinicopathologic and genetic characteristics.
RESULTS: Of the 114 surgical cases, 48% were malignant, with the majority of malignant cases diagnosed as follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (28/55). Risk of malignancy increased with TBSRTC category: 23% for AUS/FLUS, 51% for FN/SFN, and 100% for SM nodules. There were significant differences in surgical approach (p < 0.01), performance of lymph node dissection (p < 0.01), histological diagnosis (p < 0.01), primary tumor focality/laterality (p = 0.04), and lymphatic invasion (p = 0.02) based on TBSRTC classification, with resultant differences in post-surgical risk stratification per American Thyroid Association (ATA) pediatric guidelines (p = 0.01). Approximately 89% (49/55) of cases were classified as ATA low-risk, and 5 of 6 patients with ATA intermediate- or high-risk disease had SM cytology. Somatic molecular testing was performed in 40% (51/126) of tumors; 77% (27/35) of malignant cases and 38% (6/16) of benign cases harbored driver alteration(s). Of the driver-positive malignant cases, 52% (14/27) were associated with low-risk (DICER1, PTEN, RAS, and TSHR mutations), 33% (9/27) were associated with high-risk (BRAF mutations and ALK, NTRK, and RET fusions), and 15% (4/27) had unreported risk for invasive disease (APC, BLM, and PPM1D mutations and TG-FGFR1 fusion). Incidence of high-risk drivers increased with TBSRTC category. Approximately 23% (8/35) of patients harboring thyroid malignancy did not have an identifiable driver alteration.
CONCLUSIONS: Molecular analysis is useful to discriminate benign and malignant thyroid nodules with indeterminate cytology. Patients with driver genetic alteration(s) and indeterminate cytology should consider surgical management secondary to the high incidence (82%; 27/33) of thyroid malignancy in these patients.