Recent advances in research on thyroid carcinogenesis have yielded applications of diagnostic molecular biomarkers and profiling panels in the management of thyroid nodules. The specific utility of these novel, clinically available molecular tests is becoming widely appreciated, especially in perioperative decision making by the surgeon regarding the need for surgery and the extent of initial resection.
A task force was convened by the Surgical Affairs Committee of the American Thyroid Association and was charged with writing this article.
This review covers the clinical scenarios by cytologic category for which the thyroid surgeon may find molecular profiling results useful, particularly for cases with indeterminate fine-needle aspiration cytology. Distinct strengths of each ancillary test are highlighted to convey the current status of this evolving field, which has already demonstrated the potential to streamline decision making and reduce unnecessary surgery, with the accompanying benefits. However, the performance of any diagnostic test, that is, its positive predictive value and negative predictive value, are exquisitely influenced by the prevalence of cancer in that cytologic category, which is known to vary widely at different medical centers. Thus, it is crucial for the clinician to know the prevalence of malignancy within each indeterminate cytologic category, at one’s own institution. Without this information, the performance of the diagnostic tests discussed below may vary substantially.