AACR: Obesity Molecule Likely Linked to Thyroid Cancers

Leptin receptor overexpression associated with poor prognosis and aggressive disease
By A. Agrawal, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Leptin, a molecule typically associated with obesity, has been shown to be overproduced in thyroid cancers and is associated with more aggressive disease and poorer prognosis, according to a Middle Eastern study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Basic Cancer Research Meeting, held from Oct. 8 to 11 in Boston.

Khawla S. Al-Kuraya, M.D., of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and colleagues evaluated leptin levels as well as the association between the expression of the leptin receptor (Ob-R) in 536 human thyroid cancer samples and tumor characteristics.

The researchers found that 80 percent of cancers overexpressed the Ob-R, which was significantly associated with poor disease-free survival, older age, larger tumor size, advanced staged disease, and metastasis. Further in vitro studies using thyroid cancer cells that overexpressed the Ob-R showed that leptin stimulated cell growth and inhibited cell death via the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway and further downstream signaling molecules.

"Altogether these data suggest that leptin plays a critical role in PTC [papillary thyroid cancer] pathogenesis through PI3K/AKT pathway via Ob-R and is a potential prognostic marker associated with an aggressive phenotype and poor disease free survival," the researchers conclude.

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