Targeting RET for thyroid cancer therapy

Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Feb 1;77(3):297-309. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2008.10.033. Epub 2008 Nov 6.


The limited efficacy of conventional treatments in progressive thyroid carcinomas indicates the need for new therapeutic options. Activating mutations of the receptor tyrosine kinase-encoding RET gene have been identified as driving oncogenic events in subsets of papillary (PTC) and medullary (MTC) thyroid carcinomas suggesting the interest of targeted therapy. The role of RET oncogenes and the encoded constitutively active oncoproteins as potential targets has been investigated by different strategies including gene therapy and pharmacological approaches, but targeted treatment for RET-driven cancers is not clinically available in current therapy. Small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors, including sorafenib, sunitinib, motesanib and vandetanib, which have already shown efficacy against other neoplastic diseases, are being evaluated in clinical trials for treatment of thyroid carcinomas. Most of them, also described as Ret inhibitors, are multi-kinase inhibitors with antiangiogenic activity related to inhibition of receptor tyrosine kinases, such as the vascular endothelial growth factor receptors. Preclinical evidence supports the relevance of Ret oncoproteins as therapeutic targets for a subset of thyroid neoplastic diseases and, although targeting the original causal genetic change may not be sufficient to control the disease efficiently, the available knowledge outlines therapeutic opportunities for exploiting Ret inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / genetics
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • RET protein, human