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Weijun Wei, Heather Hardin and Quan-Yong Luo

Thyroid cancer is one of the most common endocrine malignancies. Although the prognosis for the majority of thyroid cancers is relatively good, patients with metastatic, radioiodine-refractory or anaplastic thyroid cancers have an unfavorable outcome. With the gradual understanding of the oncogenic events in thyroid cancers, molecularly targeted therapy using tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) is greatly changing the therapeutic landscape of radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancers (RR-DTCs), but intrinsic and acquired drug resistance, as well as adverse effects, may limit their clinical efficacy and use. In this setting, development of synergistic treatment options is of clinical significance, which may enhance the therapeutic effect of current TKIs and further overcome the resultant drug resistance. Autophagy is a critical cellular process involved not only in protecting cells and organisms from stressors but also in the maintenance and development of various kinds of cancers. Substantial studies have explored the complex role of autophagy in thyroid cancers. Specifically, autophagy plays important roles in mediating the drug resistance of small-molecular therapeutics, in regulating the dedifferentiation process of thyroid cancers and also in affecting the treatment outcome of radioiodine therapy. Exploring how autophagy intertwines in the development and dedifferentiation process of thyroid cancers is essential, which will enable a more profound understanding of the physiopathology of thyroid cancers. More importantly, these advances may fuel future development of autophagy-targeted therapeutic strategies for patients with thyroid cancers. Herein, we summarize the most recent evidence uncovering the role of autophagy in thyroid cancers and highlight future research perspectives in this regard.

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Chen-Tian Shen, Zhong-Ling Qiu and Quan-Yong Luo

The advent of biologically targeted agents and increased understanding of thyroid carcinogenesis have generated much interest in the development of biologically targeted therapeutic agents for thyroid cancer. Among them, sorafenib is the most commonly studied drug. The current meta-analysis was carried out to estimate the efficacy and safety of sorafenib administered in radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer patients. An electronic search was conducted using PubMed/MEDLINE and EMBASE. Statistical analyses were carried out using either random-effects or fixed-effects models according to heterogeneity. All the statistical analyses were carried out using the Stata version 12.0 software. Seven eligible studies were identified. The final results indicated that 22% of the patients (95% CI: 15–28) achieved a partial response. Hand–foot syndrome, diarrhea, fatigue, rash, weight loss, and hypertension were the most frequently observed adverse effects (AEs) associated with sorafenib use and the incidence of these AEs (all grades) was 80% (95% CI: 68–91), 68% (95% CI: 59–77), 67% (95% CI: 57–78), 66% (95% CI: 50–82), 52%(95% CI: 33–72), and 31% (95% CI: 21–42) respectively. Sixty-two percent (95% CI: 36-89) patients required dose reductions due to toxicity of sorafenib. As far as PR and AEs are concerned, the results of this meta-analysis indicate that sorafenib has a modest effect in patients with radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer and the high incidence of AEs associated with this agent may affect the quality of patients' lives. Though the use of sorafenib in the treatment of radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer is considered promising by most physicians working in this field, more effective agents with less toxicity and cost are still needed.

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Hong-Jun Song, Yan-Li Xue, Yan-Hong Xu, Zhong-Ling Qiu and Quan-Yong Luo

Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) is usually indolent with good prognosis and long-term survival. However, DTC distant metastasis is often a grave event and accounts for most of its disease-specific mortality. The major sites of distant metastases are the lung and bone. Metastases to the brain, breast, liver, kidney, muscle, and skin are rare or relatively rare. Nevertheless, recognizing rare metastases from DTC has a significant impact on the clinical decision making and prognosis of patients. 131I single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (131I-SPECT/CT) can provide both metabolic and anatomic information about a lesion; therefore, it can better localize and define the 131I-WBS findings in DTC patients. In this pictorial review, the imaging features of a range of rare metastases from DTC are demonstrated, with a particular emphasis on the 131I-SPECT/CT diagnostic aspect.