Combining radiation therapy with surgery and chemotherapy helps patients with rare forms of thyroid cancer live longer, according to a study published in the November 15, 2004, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology~Biology~Physics, the official journal of ASTRO, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.
Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is a very rare but aggressive form of the disease, afflicting less than 5 percent of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In the past, most thyroid tumors could not be removed surgically and radiation and chemotherapy failed to improve survival, with most patients living less than six months after diagnosis. However, a new study suggests that an aggressive strategy combining surgery, chemotherapy and accelerated radiation therapy can improve survival for patients with this type of cancer.
In the study, researchers treated 30 patients with an average age of 59 from 1990 to 2000. The cancer had spread in 26 of the patients to other areas, such as their trachea, lymph nodes and lungs. Surgery could not be performed on seven patients because the tumor had grown so large. With patients receiving the three different treatments, median survival was10 months with a 27 percent overall survival rate at three years.
“The problem with this type of thyroid cancer is the rapid evolution in the neck,” said Renaud de Crevoisier, M.D., a radiation oncologist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the lead author of the study. “However, since the tumors grow so quickly, we’re hopeful that aggressive radiation therapy combined with surgery and chemotherapy can halt these fast-growing cancer cells before they can spread, allowing people with this disease to live longer.”
For more information on thyroid cancer, visit www.astro.org/patient/treatment_information/