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Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. Treatment outcome and prognostic factors.

Cancer 2005 April 2
BACKGROUND: Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is rare but is one of the most aggressive human malignancies. Several prognostic factors have been observed in patients with ATC, and some experts advocate aggressive multimodal therapy in selected patients. However, it is unclear whether such an approach significantly improves survival. The authors analyzed prognostic factors and treatment outcomes in patients with ATC reported in the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data base.

METHODS: The cohort consisted of 516 patients with ATC reported to 12 population-based cancer registries between 1973 and 2000. Demographic, pathologic, and treatment data were used for univariate and multivariate survival analyses.

RESULTS: The mean patient age at diagnosis was 71.3 years, and there were 171 men and 345 women. Eight percent of patients had intrathyroidal tumors, 38% had extrathyroidal tumors and/or lymph node invasion, and 43% of patients had distant metastasis. The average tumor size was 6.4 cm (range, 1-15 cm). Sixty-four percent of patients underwent surgical resection of their primary tumor, and 63% received external beam radiotherapy. The overall cause-specific mortality rate was 68.4% at 6 months and 80.7% at 12 months. Univariate analysis showed that age < 60 years, female gender, intrathyroidal tumor, external beam radiotherapy, surgical resection, and combined surgical resection of tumor and radiotherapy were associated with a lower cause-specific mortality. On multivariate analysis, only age < 60 years, an intrathyroidal tumor, and the combined use of surgical and external beam radiation therapy were identified as independent predictors of lower cause-specific mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Although most patients with ATC had an extremely poor prognosis, patients < 60 years old with intrathyroidal tumors survived longer. Surgical resection with external beam radiotherapy for ATC was associated with lower cause-specific mortality.

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