Completely resected anaplastic thyroid carcinoma combined with adjuvant chemotherapy and irradiation is associated with prolonged survival

Cancer. 2001 Jun 15;91(12):2335-42.


Background: The prognosis of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) has been dismal. The objective of this study was to identify prognostic factors in patients who had prolonged survival.

Methods: Patients with ATC were identified from a computer database at a tertiary referral center. Univariate and multivariate analyses for survival differences were performed using the Kaplan-Meier log-rank statistic and the Cox proportional hazards model, respectively.

Results: Of the 33 evaluable patients, median survival was 3.8 months. Median age was 69 years. Prior goiter was present in 6 patients (18%), and 6 (18%) had prior thyroid carcinoma. Median tumor size was 6 cm, and 12 (36%) had adjacent well-differentiated carcinoma. Of the 26 patients who underwent neck exploration, 8 patients were potentially cured and received postoperative chemotherapy and irradiation; 4 (50%) were surgically macroscopically free of disease, and 4 (50%) patients had minimal residual disease after total thyroidectomy and resection of tumor adherent to adjacent structures. Four of these 8 patients survived longer than 2 years; their 5-year survival estimate was 50%. Eighteen patients underwent palliative resection of neck disease, leaving macroscopic residual disease or distant metastases; postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy and irradiation were administered in 16 of these 18 patients. Seven patients were treated with only chemotherapy and irradiation. In patients treated with potentially curative resection, median survival was 43 months compared with 3 months with palliative resection (P =0.002); the median survival of 3.3 months with only chemotherapy and irradiation was no different than palliative resection (P =0.63). No association was found between survival and age, prior goiter, prior thyroid carcinoma, adjacent differentiated carcinoma, or tumor size.

Conclusions: Although the prognosis of most patients with ATC continues to be poor, complete resection of ATC combined with postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy and irradiation resulted in long-term survival, even with persistent minimal disease that remained on vital structures. An aggressive attempt at maximal tumor debulking followed by adjuvant therapy was found to be warranted in patients with localized ATC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma / mortality*
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Goiter / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Palliative Care
  • Prognosis
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Survival Rate
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*