The use of recombinant human TSH in the follow-up of differentiated thyroid cancer: experience from a large patient cohort in a single centre

Vitale Giovanni, Lupoli Gelsy Arianna, Ciccarelli Antonio, Fonderico Francesco, Klain Michele, Squame Giovanni, Salvatore Marco, Lupoli Giovanni
Clinical Endocrinology 2002, 56 (2): 247-52

BACKGROUND: Periodic evaluation of serum thyroglobulin (Tg) and whole body 131I imaging (131I-WBS) are essential in the follow-up of differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC); both diagnostic modalities require stimulation by high levels of TSH. Administration of recombinant human TSH (rhTSH) is an alternative to the withdrawal of thyroid hormone therapy.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to report our experience in the use of rhTSH for the management of patients with DTC.

PATIENTS: One hundred and four patients were enrolled in the study. A dose of 10 U of rhTSH therapy was injected intramuscularly for 2 consecutive days; 24 h after the second dose of rhTSH the patients were administered 4--5 mCi of 131I and, 48 h later, WBS was performed.

RESULTS: In all patients, baseline mean serum Tg and TSH levels were 2.4 +/- 1.9 ng/ml and 0.0153 +/- 0.0232 mIU/l, respectively. Basal Tg levels were detectable in 58 out of 104 patients. After rhTSH injection, mean serum TSH levels rose to 122.67 +/- 47.36 mIU/l. Stimulated serum Tg levels increased to greater-than-or-equal 5 ng/ml and the 131I-WBS showed an uptake in 18 patients (17.4%). Among them there were three with bone metastases and one with brain metastases, who reported violent skeletal pain and a severe headache, respectively. These were caused by the growth of tumour mass of metastases induced by rhTSH administration.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of rhTSH avoids the debilitating effects of hypothyroidism and its use successfully promotes iodine uptake and increases the sensitivity of serum Tg testing. The risk of causing serious side-effects recommends performing skull magnetic resonance and radionuclide bone scan in cases of suspected brain or skeletal metastases.

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