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New findings show that patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma, high-grade follicular thyroid carcinoma, and anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) have high levels of the enzyme stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1)-known for its role in fatty acid metabolism. The research, presented at the American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting (Abstract 206-accessible at, also found that (1) an inhibitor of SCD1 expression demonstrated strong anti-tumor activity (reduced tumor cell proliferation and increased cell death) specifically in ATC cells (and little to no activity in the other thyroid cancer cells); and (2) the sequential addition of a proteasome inhibitor led to a synergistic effect and enhanced anti-tumor activity in ATC cells.

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"Since ATC is one of the most aggressive and least treatable of all cancers, new therapies are desperately needed," the meeting's Program Committee Co-Chair, Ronald J. Koenig, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, said in a news release. "This exciting finding will need to be tested in animal models of anaplastic thyroid cancer before consideration of clinical trials, but it offers hope for a disease very much in need of new therapies."


ATC is resistant to traditional radio- and chemo-therapeutics, and because of its invasive nature, surgery is often not an option for patients diagnosed with the disease, the authors note.


The next steps, the study's lead author, Christina von Roemeling, a senior research technologist in the Cancer Research Department at the Mayo Clinic, explained via email, are to validate the in-vitro results in an in-vivo preclinical model of therapy, and SCD1 inhibitors need to be evaluated for safety and efficacy in humans. Such work is currently in progress, she added.