Hypothyroidism related to tyrosine kinase inhibitors: an emerging toxic effect of targeted therapy

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2009 Apr;6(4):219-28. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2009.4.


Despite their inherent selectivity, targeted therapies such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) can cause unusual adverse effects. Sunitinib and sorafenib are multitargeted TKIs that have been demonstrated to induce hypothyroidism and thyroid dysfunction. Retrospective studies indicate that sunitinib can induce hypothyroidism in 53-85% of patients, and in prospective studies this complication has been reported in 36-71% of patients. Sorafenib has been reported to be responsible for hypothyroidism in 18% of patients with metastatic renal-cell carcinoma. Furthermore, imatinib and sunitinib seem to increase the requirement of levothyroxine in hypothyroid patients. The management of thyroid dysfunction and possible related symptoms, such as fatigue, represents a challenge to oncologists. We propose a diagnostic and therapeutic algorithm for the management of TKI-related hypothyroidism. Prospective trials are needed to define the incidence of overt and subclinical hypothyroidism and thyroid dysfunction during therapy with sunitinib, sorafenib and potentially other TKIs. The safety and efficacy, and optimal dosing and timing of starting replacement therapy in patients affected by TKI-related hypothyroidism need accurate appraisal and should be evaluated prospectively in appropriately designed trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Benzenesulfonates / administration & dosage
  • Benzenesulfonates / adverse effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / chemically induced*
  • Hypothyroidism / prevention & control
  • Indoles / administration & dosage
  • Indoles / adverse effects*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Pyridines / administration & dosage
  • Pyridines / adverse effects*
  • Pyrroles / administration & dosage
  • Pyrroles / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sorafenib
  • Sunitinib
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzenesulfonates
  • Indoles
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyridines
  • Pyrroles
  • Niacinamide
  • Sorafenib
  • Sunitinib