Papillary thyroid carcinoma patients assessed to be at low or intermediary risk after primary treatment are at greater risk of long term recurrence if they are thyroglobulin antibody positive or do not have distinctly low thyroglobulin at initial assessment

Ozlem Soyluk, Harika Boztepe, Ferihan Aral, Faruk Alagol, Nese Colak Özbey
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2011, 21 (12): 1301-8

BACKGROUND: In papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), recurrences during long-term follow-up (R-LTFU) occur even in those who appear to have an excellent prognosis after initial thyroid surgery and usually, radioactive iodine (i.e., "primary treatment"). Initial studies that predict R-LTFU are not well defined. Values for serum thyroglobulin (Tg) measurements when serum thyrotropin (TSH) is >30 μU/mL, as a result of either recombinant TSH or L-thyroxine withdrawal, referred to here as stimulated Tg (STg), have been previously evaluated. The aim of the current study was to determine the parameters associated with R-LTFU in patients with PTC categorized as having low-risk disease 9 to 12 months after their primary treatment.

METHODS: This was a retrospective study of 469 patients with PTC with a mean follow-up 5.8±3.9 years. Study patients had to have no uptake in the first postablative diagnostic (131)iodine whole body scan (WBS) performed 9-12 months after primary treatment, a normal cervical ultrasonography (C-US), and STg of <2 ng/mL if their test for antithyroglobulin antibody (anti-Tg) was negative. The first two criteria were required for patients with a positive anti-Tg test, and their nominal serum Tg concentrations were not analyzed.

RESULTS: Twelve patients developed recurrences (2.6%) in cervical region. Greater tumor size, higher STg, and positive anti-Tg tests at initial evaluation were associated with greater R-LTFU. The recurrence rates were 1.5% (7/450) and 26% (5/19), respectively, in patients with negative and positive anti-Tg tests at initial evaluation. Recurrence-free survival was lower in the patients with initial lymph node metastases, positive anti-Tg tests, and STg of ≥0.3 ng/mL at the first postablative WBS (p=0.022, 0.001, 0.035, respectively, by log-rank test). Regression analysis in patients who were anti-Tg negative revealed that STg ≥0.3 ng/mL at this first WBS was the only parameter related to recurrence (p=0.031, odds ratio: 10.30, confidence interval: 1.23-83.3).

CONCLUSION: Patients with PTC traditionally categorized as low risk during their first 9 to 12 months after primary treatment have a greater risk of R-LTFU if their postablative STg is ≥0.3 ng/mL, or they have positive anti-Tg, even at this early stage. Periodic C-US is important in these patients and should probably be more frequent in patients with PTC who have positive anti-Tg tests or STg ≥0.3 ng/mL in the first year after diagnosis.

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