BRAF V600E mutation has been reported to show a high specificity for papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Using this marker to upgrade ‘indeterminate’ or ‘suspicious’ thyroid fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology to ‘malignant’ could potentially allow one-stage therapeutic total thyroidectomy.Methods:
For a 14-month period, FNA cytology specimens in the Thy3–5 categories, which are the UK equivalents of indeterminate (Thy3a, atypical; Thy3f, follicular), suspicious for malignancy (Thy4) and malignant (Thy5) in the Bethesda System, underwent BRAF mutation testing by melt curve analysis. The results were correlated with histology.Results:
We tested 123 cytology specimens of which 12 (9.8%) failed. The BRAF mutation rate in the remainder was 16.2% (18/111), with 93 showing the wild-type. Seventeen mutations were V600E and one was non-V600E. The rate of mutation increased significantly (P < 0.0001 if Thy3a and Thy3f were combined) with the cytology category: 1/42 Thy3a (2.4%), 1/36 Thy3f (2.8%), 4/15 Thy4 (26.7%), 12/18 Thy5 (66.7%). All BRAF mutations correlated with PTC on histology, except for one recurrent PTC without histology. One mutation-positive case with Thy3a cytology showed the target lesion to be a 10-mm follicular adenoma on histology with an immediately adjacent 4-mm micro-PTC, in a patient who did not require total thyroidectomy.Conclusion:
BRAF mutational analysis by melt curve analysis is feasible in routine thyroid cytology, and in our series had a 100% specificity for PTC in subsequent histology. The application of BRAF analysis could be useful for indeterminate cytology, but we suggest that it would be most appropriate and cost-effective for Thy4/suspicious cases, for which it could enable one-stage therapeutic surgery in the context of multidisciplinary discussion. In contrast, the sensitivity is low and there is no role for avoiding diagnostic thyroid surgery if wild-type BRAF is found.