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Paolo Miccoli, Michele N Minuto, Clara Ugolini, Eleonora Molinaro, Fulvio Basolo, Piero Berti, Aldo Pinchera and Rossella Elisei

Total thyroidectomy and central neck dissection are the procedures of choice in patients affected with medullary thyroid cancer. It is known that a medullary thyroid cancer with node metastases can be rarely cured, and therefore the utility of a modified radical neck dissection in the absence of suspicious node metastases still needs further evidence. The study aims to verify whether other epidemiological and pathological parameters could affect the prognosis of medullary thyroid cancer patients. We prospectively studied 70 medullary thyroid cancer patients consecutively operated on (from 2000 to 2004) at the same institution and analysed by the same pathologists. All patients underwent total thyroidectomy and central lymphadenectomy. In 27 cases, the ipsilateral (n=19) or bilateral (n=8) modified radical neck dissection was performed in the presence of suspicious lateral neck node metastases. After surgical treatment, basal and stimulated serum calcitonins (Cts) were measured in all patients. Follow-up ranged between 1 and 4 years. Patients were considered ‘cured’ when stimulated Ct was undetectable. Age, sex, tumour size, tumour capsule, multicentricity, nodes in the central neck and mean number of positive nodes were analysed in ‘cured’ and ‘not-cured’ patients. The presence of node metastases in the central compartment was significantly correlated with the outcome of the patients, being present in 9 and 72% of cured and not-cured patients respectively (P<0.000001). Tumour size was also significantly correlated with the outcome of the disease (P<0.00006). The presence of the tumour capsule correlated with better prognosis (P=0.0005) and absence of node metastases (P=0.0080). By multivariate analysis, the presence of node metastasis remained the most significant variable affecting the outcome of the disease (P=0.000014). Our results show that the outcome of encapsulated cancer is significantly better regardless of tumour size and node metastases. Although the early diagnosis and the extensive surgical treatment may favour the good outcome of medullary thyroid cancer, they do not always guarantee the definitive cure of the disease, being the capsular infiltration an independent bad prognostic factor.

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Mimi I Hu, Rossella Elisei, Marek Dedecjus, Aron Popovtzer, Maralyn Druce, Ellen Kapiteijn, Furio Pacini, Laura Locati, Jolanta Krajewska, Richard Weiss and Robert F Gagel

Vandetanib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor approved for treatment of advanced symptomatic or progressive medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). The current study (Nbib1496313) evaluated the benefit–risk of two starting doses of vandetanib in patients with symptomatic or progressive MTC. Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive vandetanib 150 or 300 mg daily and followed for a maximum of 14 months (Part A), with the option to then enter an open-label phase (Part B) investigating vandetanib 100, 150, 200 and 300 mg daily doses. Efficacy was assessed in Part A, and safety and tolerability during Parts A and B up to 2 years post randomization. Eighty-one patients were randomized in Part A and 61 patients entered Part B, of whom 37 (60.7%) received 2 years of treatment. Overall, 25% of patients experienced an objective response (OR) at 14 months (OR rate, 0.29 (95% CI, 0.176–0.445) for 300 mg, and 0.20 (95% CI, 0.105–0.348) for 150 mg; one-sided P value approximately 0.43). The most common adverse events (AEs) included diarrhea, hypocalcemia, asthenia, QTc prolongation, hypokalemia and keratopathy, all at generally higher incidence with 300 vs 150 mg (Part A). Part B safety and tolerability was consistent with Part A. OR was observed with both vandetanib doses; the 300 mg dose showed a more favorable trend vs 150 mg as initial dose. Thus, for most patients, 300 mg vandetanib is the most appropriate starting dose; dose reductions to manage AEs and lower initial doses for patients with particular comorbidities can be considered.

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Cristina Romei, Raffaele Ciampi, Pinuccia Faviana, Laura Agate, Eleonora Molinaro, Valeria Bottici, Fulvio Basolo, Paolo Miccoli, Furio Pacini, Aldo Pinchera and Rossella Elisei

A low sodium iodide symporter (NIS) expression has been shown in papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTCs) harboring the BRAFV600E mutation. In the present study, we analyzed the mRNA expression of thyroid differentiation genes, glucose transporter (GLUT)-1 and GLUT-3, in 78 PTCs according to the presence of BRAFV600E or RET/PTC rearrangements. We found BRAFV600E and RET/PTC rearrangements in 35.8 and 19.4% of PTCs respectively. The mRNA expression of NIS and thyroperoxidase (TPO) genes were significantly lower (P<0.0001 and P=0.004 respectively) in BRAFV600E-positive PTC with respect to non-mutated samples. In support of this result, immunohistochemistry showed that the percentage of NIS-positive cells was significantly lower (P=0.005) in BRAFV600E-mutated PTC (mean 53.5%) than in negative cases (mean 72.6%). In contrast, no difference either in NIS or in any other thyroid differentiation genes' mRNA expression was found in PTC with or without RET/PTC rearrangements. When GLUT-1 and GLUT-3 mRNA expression was considered, no correlation was found either in BRAFV600E- nor in RET/PTC-mutated cases. In conclusion, this study confirmed the presence of a genetic alteration of BRAF and/or RET oncogenes in 64% of PTC cases and revealed a significant correlation of BRAFV600E mutation with a lower expression of both NIS and TPO. This latter finding could indicate that an early dedifferentiation process is present at the molecular level in BRAFV600E-mutated PTC, thus suggesting that the previously demonstrated poor prognostic significance of BRAFV600E mutation could be related to the dedifferentiation process more than to a more advanced stage at diagnosis.

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David Viola, Laura Valerio, Eleonora Molinaro, Laura Agate, Valeria Bottici, Agnese Biagini, Loredana Lorusso, Virginia Cappagli, Letizia Pieruzzi, Carlotta Giani, Elena Sabini, Paolo Passannati, Luciana Puleo, Antonio Matrone, Benedetta Pontillo-Contillo, Valentina Battaglia, Salvatore Mazzeo, Paolo Vitti and Rossella Elisei

Abstract

Thyroid cancer is rare, but it is the most frequent endocrine malignancy. Its prognosis is generally favorable, especially in cases of well-differentiated thyroid cancers (DTCs), such as papillary and follicular cancers, which have survival rates of approximately 95% at 40 years. However, 15–20% of cases became radioiodine refractory (RAI-R), and until now, no other treatments have been effective. The same problems are found in cases of poorly differentiated (PDTC) and anaplastic (ATC) thyroid cancers and in at least 30% of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) cases, which are very aggressive and not sensitive to radioiodine. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) represent a new approach to the treatment of advanced cases of RAI-R DTC, MTC, PDTC, and, possibly, ATC. In the past 10 years, several TKIs have been tested for the treatment of advanced, progressive, and RAI-R thyroid tumors, and some of them have been recently approved for use in clinical practice: sorafenib and lenvatinib for DTC and PDTC and vandetanib and cabozantinib for MTC. The objective of this review is to present the current status of the treatment of advanced thyroid cancer with the use of innovative targeted therapies by describing both the benefits and the limits of their use based on the experiences reported so far. A comprehensive analysis and description of the molecular basis of these therapies, as well as new therapeutic perspectives, are reported. Some practical suggestions are given for both the choice of patients to be treated and their management, with particular regard to the potential side effects.