Thyroid Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 04/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about thyroid cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

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 best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

New treatments

Clinical trials for thyroid cancer include testing new medications, including drugs known as targeted therapy. As explained in Types of 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. Areas of research include:

  • Radiolabeled antibodies are being tested for medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). They are antibodies made in a laboratory that are attached to a radioactive substance.

  • Researchers continue to study the drugs vandetanib and cabozantinib (see Types of Treatment) for MTC, including for use with children who have advanced hereditary MTC.

  • 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 later-stage differentiated thyroid cancer that does not respond to surgery or to radioactive iodine (I-131) treatment or stops responding, clinical trials are studying several targeted therapies called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors, which may block the creation of new blood vessels that are necessary for tumor growth. VEGF inhibitors being studied include axitinib (Inlyta), nintedanib (Ofev, Vargatef), and pazopanib (Votrient).

  • New approaches are being tested for thyroid cancer that doesn’t respond to I-131. One drug being studied is called selumetinib (AZD6244), which is being tested to see if it helps boost I-131 absorption in treating advanced thyroid cancer. Other drugs being looked at include the combination of temsirolimus (Torisel) and sorafenib (Nexavar).

  • For follicular and anaplastic thyroid cancers, valproic acid is being researched as a possible treatment.

  • Investigations are underway to fine-tune diagnosis and predict treatment outcomes based on the molecular biology of the tumor. Molecular biology is the study of the structure and function of cells at the molecular level.

  • Researchers continue to investigate the best use of I-131, including different dosages, in treating thyroid cancer. In 1 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. Further knowledge in this area will improve how treatment options are chosen and give more precise prognosis.

  • Early studies on 2 targeted therapies called LOXO-292 and BLU-667 suggest they have less side effects and better response rates for people with metastatic MTC.

Data collection

There are efforts underway to create volunteer registries of people with a history of thyroid cancer. This can help doctors research this disease in the future. Participants are asked to provide information, tissue samples, or blood and urine sample.

Palliative care/Supportive care

Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current thyroid cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in thyroid cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.