, Volume 392, Issue 4, pp 397-404
Date: 28 Nov 2006

New trends in the treatment of undifferentiated carcinomas of the thyroid

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Malignant tumours of the thyroid are generally classified as either well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma, which is composed of papillary and follicular carcinoma, or undifferentiated/anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). ATC is not only the most lethal disease in the field of endocrine surgery but also one of the most aggressive tumours characterized by an almost invariable fatal outcome, which only very rarely exceeds a 1-year course.


The impact of surgical resection in association with external beam radiation on ATC outcome has been extensively investigated also in studies based on multicentric database, and there is a general agreement on the significance of a complete resection of the tumour. It has been difficult up to now to collect data regarding chemotherapy adjuvant treatment. In spite of the lack of an extensive review about the results of this kind of treatment by itself or as part of a multimodal approach, it seems that among the several chemotherapy agents experienced, none proved to influence significantly ATC prognosis. Neither doxorubicin (the most commonly used) nor other drugs, such as cisplatin, bleomycin, fluorouracil or cyclophosphamide, showed any real efficacy in controlling the disease.


The most recent development in this field seems to be represented by the possibility offered by PPARg agonists; even more promising might be the use of adenovirus-mediated p53 tumour suppressor gene therapy or BMP-7. All these new therapies need further confirmation coming from ongoing clinical trials such as those involving the use of vascular and growth factor-targeted agents.