Trace elements such as zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn) appear to be decreased in tissues containing medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), suggesting that these elements combined with matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases (TIMPs) could be useful biomarkers in MTC. The findings were recently published in Biological Trace Element Research.

MMPs form part of a family of endopeptidases present in several malignant tumors that degrade the extracellular matrix, contributing to the processes of tumor growth and metastasis. TIMPs, on the other hand, are associated with decreased angiogenesis and invasion.  

Zn has been proven to play an important role in MTC pathology, and several studies support its use as an MTC biomarker combined with MMPs and TIMPs. However, the relevance of other trace elements such as Fe, Mn, and copper (Cu) has not been studied in the context of MTC.

Continue Reading

Read more about MTC testing

The authors aimed to assess the presence of trace elements in MTC samples, compare them to healthy controls, and evaluate their correlation with other MTC markers such as MMPs and TIMPs. The study included 26 samples from patients with MTC and 17 from a healthy control. Researchers used Spearman’s correlation coefficient to analyze the relationship between trace elements, MMPs, and TIMPs.  

Results showed that Cu levels were higher in the MTC samples than in the healthy control samples, while Zn, Fe, Mn, and Cu were lower in the MTC samples compared to healthy controls. Zn was the only trace element that showed a significant correlation with MMPs, correlating inversely with several of them. No trace element showed a significant correlation with TIMPs.

“The findings of the present study suggest a high tendency towards decreased levels of trace elements such as Zn, Fe, and Mn in tissues affected by MTC,” the authors wrote. “In addition, Zn may be the trace element which saves more relationship with the proportion and intensity of MMPs, being altogether useful biomarkers of MTC.”


Vázquez-Lorente H, Dundjerović DM, Tatić SB, et al. Relationship between trace elements and matrix metalloproteinases 2 and 9 and their tissue inhibitors in medullary thyroid carcinoma. Biol Trace Elem Res. Published online September 26, 2022. doi:10.1007/s12011-022-03431-z