Cureus. 2023 Sep 29;15(9):e46206. doi: 10.7759/cureus.46206. eCollection 2023 Sep.
Background Follicular-patterned lesions are a major gray zone in thyroid cytopathology. The recently introduced 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) classification emphasizes the importance of genetic alterations in thyroid neoplasms with the introduction of certain newer terminologies that are expected to cause remarkable changes in cytopathologic and histopathologic reporting. Although molecular assays such as the Afirma gene expression classifier and the ThyroSeq are already in use, there has been an ongoing search for further reliable molecular markers. The growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15) is one among them. This study aimed to determine the diagnostic utility of GDF-15 mRNA expression in frozen tissue and fine-needle aspiration (FNA) samples from follicular-patterned thyroid lesions and neoplasms. Methodology The real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction was performed on 75 frozen tissue and FNA samples each from 19 cases of follicular thyroid hyperplasia (FTH), 10 nodular goiters (NGs), 17 follicular thyroid adenomas (FTAs), eight follicular thyroid carcinomas (FTCs), 12 follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinomas (FVPTCs), and nine classic papillary thyroid carcinomas (CPTCs) that were diagnosed according to the 2017 WHO classification of thyroid neoplasms. The GDF-15 mRNA expression in all these cases was assessed and compared with the control thyroid tissue samples. One-way analysis of variance and the Kruskal-Wallis test were performed using GraphPad Prism 8 software to determine the significance of differences in the GDF-15 mRNA levels among various thyroid lesions. Results A higher GDF-15 mRNA expression was noted in the malignant thyroid neoplasms including FTC, FVPTC, and CPTC in comparison to FTA, with a fold change between the malignant and benign groups being more than 244.18 times. A difference in the fold change was noted between FTH and FTA with an increase in GDF-15 mRNA level in the latter, which was statistically not significant. Conclusions The fact that GDF-15 mRNA was studied both on fine-needle aspiration cytologic and the frozen tissue material and that the majority of the lesions studied were follicular-patterned establishes the GDF-15 as a potential marker not only for diagnosing malignant thyroid neoplasms of the follicular epithelium but also in distinguishing benign and malignant follicular-patterned neoplasms of the thyroid.