Persistent disease and recurrence in differentiated thyroid cancer patients with undetectable postoperative stimulated thyroglobulin level

C Nascimento, I Borget, A Al Ghuzlan, D Deandreis, L Chami, J P Travagli, D Hartl, J Lumbroso, C Chougnet, L Lacroix, E Baudin, M Schlumberger, S Leboulleux
Endocrine-related Cancer 2011, 18 (2): R29-40
(131)I is given in differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) without taking into account thyroglobulin (Tg) levels at the time of ablation, whereas 6-18 months later it is a major criterion for cure. This single-center retrospective study assessed the frequency and risk factors for persistent disease on postablation whole body scan (WBS) and postoperative neck ultrasonography (n-US) and for recurrent disease during the subsequent follow-up, in patients with DTC and undetectable TSH-stimulated Tg level (TSH-Tg) in the absence of Tg antibodies (TgAb) at the time of ablation. Among 1031 patients ablated, 242 (23%) consecutive patients were included. Persistent disease occurred in eight cases (3%) (seven abnormal WBS and one abnormal n-US), all with initial neck lymph node metastases (N1). N1 was a major risk factor for persistent disease. Among 203 patients with normal WBS and a follow-up over 6 months, TSH-Tg 6-18 months after ablation was undetectable in the absence of TgAb in 173 patients, undetectable with TgAb in 1 patient and equal to 1.2  ng/ml in 1 patient. n-US was normal in 152 patients and falsely positive in 3 patients. After a mean follow-up of 4 years, recurrence occurred in two cases (1%), both with aggressive histological variants. The only risk factor for recurrence was an aggressive histological variant (P = 0.03). In conclusion, undetectable postoperative TSH-Tg in the absence of TgAb at the time of ablation is frequent. In these patients, repeating TSH-Tg 6-18 months after ablation is not useful. (131)I ablation could be avoided in the absence of N1 and aggressive histological variant.


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