Molecular Targeted Therapies of Aggressive Thyroid Cancer

Silvia Martina Ferrari, Poupak Fallahi, Ugo Politti, Gabriele Materazzi, Enke Baldini, Salvatore Ulisse, Paolo Miccoli, Alessandro Antonelli
Frontiers in Endocrinology 2015, 6: 176
Differentiated thyroid carcinomas (DTCs) that arise from follicular cells account >90% of thyroid cancer (TC) [papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) 90%, follicular thyroid cancer (FTC) 10%], while medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) accounts <5%. Complete total thyroidectomy is the treatment of choice for PTC, FTC, and MTC. Radioiodine is routinely recommended in high-risk patients and considered in intermediate risk DTC patients. DTC cancer cells, during tumor progression, may lose the iodide uptake ability, becoming resistant to radioiodine, with a significant worsening of the prognosis. The lack of specific and effective drugs for aggressive and metastatic DTC and MTC leads to additional efforts toward the development of new drugs. Several genetic alterations in different molecular pathways in TC have been shown in the past few decades, associated with TC development and progression. Rearranged during transfection (RET)/PTC gene rearrangements, RET mutations, BRAF mutations, RAS mutations, and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 angiogenesis pathways are some of the known pathways determinant in the development of TC. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are small organic compounds inhibiting tyrosine kinases auto-phosphorylation and activation, most of them are multikinase inhibitors. TKIs act on the aforementioned molecular pathways involved in growth, angiogenesis, local, and distant spread of TC. TKIs are emerging as new therapies of aggressive TC, including DTC, MTC, and anaplastic thyroid cancer, being capable of inducing clinical responses and stabilization of disease. Vandetanib and cabozantinib have been approved for the treatment of MTC, while sorafenib and lenvatinib for DTC refractory to radioiodine. These drugs prolong median progression-free survival, but until now no significant increase has been observed on overall survival; side effects are common. New efforts are made to find new more effective and safe compounds and to personalize the therapy in each TC patient.

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