Galectin-3 is not useful in thyroid FNA


Dr D.N. Poller MD FRCPath, Department of Cytology, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, Portsmouth PO6 3LY, UK.
Tel.: +44(0)2392 286458; Fax: +44(0)2392 286493;


Introduction:  Previous studies have suggested that galectin-3 immunohistochemistry may be useful in the fine needle aspiration (FNA) diagnosis of thyroid carcinoma as it has been reported to selectively stain carcinomas and not adenomas or goitres.

Methods:  Fifty-one patients were included in a prospective study of galectin-3 in thyroid FNA; 88.2% were female and 11.8% male, mean age 53 years, range 25–87 years. Cell blocks were prepared and stained for galectin-3 if any cells were present in needle washings from the respective FNAs.

Results:  Twelve of 51 (23.5%) of cell blocks contained epithelial cells. One benign and one inadequate FNA were negative for galectin-3 staining. One of five non-diagnostic FNA cases, a papillary carcinoma on final histology showed positive staining. Four follicular neoplasm/suspicious of carcinoma cases showed negative staining. One malignant FNA case, a papillary carcinoma showed positive staining with galectin-3 but three further carcinomas, two papillary and one follicular were galectin-3 negative.

Conclusion:  Galectin-3 immunohistochemistry does not appear to be a useful adjunct to diagnosis in thyroid FNA as it does not reliably distinguish malignant and benign lesions. Many thyroid aspirates are of low cellularity and are not suitable for cell block immunohistochemistry.