Translational Thyroid Research Group

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Group leader: Dr Kristien Boelaert

Basic Science Lead: Professor Chris McCabe


The Boelaert translational thyroid research group focuses on the epidemiology of thyroid disease utilising a number of large clinical databases. Specifically, we are involved in projects relating to the diagnosis, the management and the long-term consequences of thyroid dysfunction. Additional interests include the diagnosis and management of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer, approaches to improve iodine deficiency in the UK and the identification of novel genes in congenital hypothyroidism.

Our research group

We are an active and successful group of clinical and non-clinical investigators delivering a large portfolio of innovative translational research into the field of thyroid diseases. Testing our hypotheses in state-of-the-art laboratory and translational studies has allowed us to develop into a leading international centre for the study of thyroid disease. We work highly collaboratively across schools and colleges within the University as well as with experts in leading national and international centres.

Current Projects

  • Weight gain following treatment of hyperthyroidism.
    We have developed advanced statistical models to predict excessive weight gain following treatment of hyperthyroidism (publication to be submitted to high impact journal soon). We now wish to evaluate the effectiveness of life-style intervention programmes in the prevention of weight gain following antithyroid treatment. These investigations are undertaken in collaboration with colleagues in HaPS.
  • The role of ultrasound elastography in the diagnosis of thyroid cancer.
    We have been successful in securing funding from NIHR-HTA for a multicentre trial to evaluate the role of ultrasound elastography in improving the diagnostic accuracy of fine needle aspiration in the investigation of subjects with thyroid nodules. These studies will be undertaken in collaboration with Prof H. Mehanna and colleagues within UHBFT.
  • Systematic Review and Health Economic analysis of iodine supplementation during pregnancy.
    Following publication of our multi-centre investigation indicating mild-moderate iodine deficiency in the UK (Lancet 2011, 377: 2007-2012), we will submit a NIHR-HTA application to systematically review the available evidence and to build a health economic model of effectiveness of iodine supplementation. New collaborations with colleagues within HaPS and the University of Surrey have been established.
  • The evaluation of thyroid dysfunction in hospitalised patients.
    We are conducting a large study using the PICS and Lorenzo clinical databases within UHBFT to assess the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction in hospitalised patients. Furthermore we wish to evaluate the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and outcome in hospitalised patients. New collaborations with Dr J Coleman and his team of IT and statistical experts have been set up to facilitate these studies.
  • Assessment of mortality in overt hyperthyroidism.
    Having previously demonstrated significantly increased mortality in patients with overt hyperthyroidism, we have investigated and published the impact of type of therapy, the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism, the influence of control of hyperthyroidism as well as the potential influence of confounding factors on mortality in a large series of patients presenting to the thyroid clinic (JCEM 2013; 98: 1869-1882).
  • Outcomes in incidental and non-incidental papillary thyroid microcarcinoma.
    In collaboration with Prof Mehanna, we have conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis investigating recurrence rates and outcomes in subjects with papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (JCEM 2013 under revision).
  • Investigations into the pathogenesis and management of thyroid eye disease.
    In collaboration with Mr Omar Durrani (ophthalmologist) and John Curnow we have taken part in a number of studies relating to thyroid eye disease including the assessment of readability of on line patient information for subjects with thyrotoxicosis, the development of new assays for IGF-1 antibodies and a metabolomic analysis of serum of patients with Graves’ ophthalmopathy. We are also involved in a national audit project of subjects with thyroid associated ophthalmopathy.
  • Worldwide incidence and mortality of thyroid cancer.
    Working with Hisham Mehanna and statistical/epidemiology colleagues at GSK, we are examining changing patterns of thyroid cancer incidence and mortality across the world, as well as regional differences. A paper is under revision for JAMA and, if accepted, will prompt further investigation of underlying causes of regional differences in thyroid cancer incidence and outcomes.
  • Identification of novel genes involved in congenital hypothyroidism.
    In collaboration with Profs E. Maher and K. Chatterjee (University of Cambridge), we have identified a number of candidate genes in congenital hypothyroidism following whole exome sequencing. Efforts are underway to confirm the results and to investigate the role of these genes in thyroid physiology.

Recent Publications


Principal Investigators
Dr Kristien Boelaert - School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Professor Chris McCabe - School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Mr Neil Sharma - School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine

Postdoctoral Researchers
Matthew Edmunds - School of Immunity and Infection

PhD Students
Barbara Torlinska

Internal Collaborators
Dr Jamie Coleman - School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Professor Kate Jolly - School of Health and Population Sciences
Professor Tracy Roberts - School of Health and Population Sciences
Professor Christine MacArthur - School of Health and Population Sciences
Professor Hisham Mehanna - School of Cancer Sciences
Dr Roger Holder - School of Health and Population Sciences
Mr Alastair Denniston - School of Immunity and Infection

External Collaborators
Professor James Fagin - Sloan Kettering Memorial, New York, USA
Professor Shlomo Melmed - Cedars Sinai, UCLA, USA
Dr Patrick Maisonneuve - European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy
Professor Eamonn Maher / Professor Krishna Chatterjee - Cambridge University
Professor Margaret Rayman - University of Surrey
Professor Paul Aveyard - University of Oxford