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Doctors are working to learn more about thyroid cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.
Updated surgical methods.
- New surgical procedures, including minimally invasive video-assisted thyroid surgery, are being developed that are aimed at reducing the neck scarring and recovery periods. Currently, this type of endoscopic surgery has limited availability, and only a few surgical centers have the expertise to perform this procedure. In addition, they may not be recommended for every patient.
- A study is underway to determine if examining a person's sentinel lymph node is helpful in diagnosing and staging small papillary thyroid cancer. In this procedure, the surgeon finds and removes the sentinel (first) lymph node closest to the tumor for examination.
New treatments. Clinical trials for thyroid cancer include testing new medications, including drugs known as targeted therapy. As explained in Treatment, targeted therapy is a treatment that targets specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. In addition, researchers are looking at new combinations of chemotherapy and other treatments.
- Radio-labeled antibodies (an antibody made in the laboratory attached to a radioactive substance) are being tested for MTC.
- Also for MTC, researchers continue to study the drug vandetanib (see Treatment), including its use with children who have advanced hereditary MTC, as well as new drugs such as cabozantinib (XL184).
- For anaplastic thyroid cancer, clinical trials are studying combination chemotherapy. One study is comparing the results of either carboplatin (Paraplatin) and paclitaxel (Taxol) alone or with an experimental drug, combretastatin A4 phosphate (CA4P, fosbretabulin, Zybrestat).
- For advanced thyroid cancer that does not respond to surgery and/or I-131 treatment, clinical trials are studying axitinib, sorafenib, pazopanib, cabozantinib, and other vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors, which may block the formation of new blood vessels that are necessary for tumor growth. Another VEGF inhibitor, AMG 706 or motesanib diphosphate, was shown in a phase II clinical trial to shrink tumors or delay the growth of them in some people with advanced thyroid cancer. Also, in patients whose tumors showed a genetic mutation known as BRAF V600E, the tumors responded better to the investigational drug.
- New approaches being tested for thyroid cancer that doesn't respond to I-131 include the drug panobinostat (LBH589), and the combination of temsirolimus and sorafenib.
- Investigations are underway to fine-tune diagnosis and predict treatment outcomes based on the molecular biology (the study of the structure and function of cells at the molecular level) of the tumor.
- Researchers continue to investigate the best use of I-131, including different dosages, in treating thyroid cancer. In one study, researchers are looking at whether taking a drug called sunitinib (Sutent) after I-131 is helpful to those with advanced disease.
- The genetic testing and the refinement of RET oncogenes (see Risk Factors) is an ongoing area of active research that will improve selection of treatment and give more precise prognosis.
Data collection. There is an effort to create a volunteer registry of people with a history of thyroid cancer, to help doctors research this disease in the future. Participants are asked to provide information, tissue samples, and/or blood and urine samples.
Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current thyroid cancer treatments in order to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.
To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.
Learn more about common statistical terms used in cancer research.