Background: Despite very low mortality associated with micropapillary thyroid cancer, locoregional recurrence is common and controversy exists regarding optimal surgical treatment and the role of adjunctive radioiodine.
Methods: The National Thyroid Cancer Treatment Cooperative Study Group Registry was analyzed for recurrences in patients with unifocal versus multifocal micropapillary cancer, with or without nodal disease, depending upon the extent of surgery and the use of adjunctive radioiodine. Six hundred eleven patients considered disease-free after initial therapy were followed for 2572 person-years.
Results: Thirty patients (6.2%) had recurrences detected at a mean 2.8 years after primary treatment. Recurrences did not differ between patients with unifocal and multifocal disease overall; however, among patients who received less than a near-total thyroidectomy (NTT), those with multifocal disease had more recurrences than those with unifocal disease (18% vs. 4%, p = 0.01). Patients with multifocal disease who had a total (T) or NTT trended toward fewer recurrences than those undergoing less than an NTT (6% vs. 18%, p = 0.058). In patients who did not receive radioiodine therapy, recurrence was more common in patients with multifocal disease versus unifocal disease (7% vs. 2%, p = 0.02). However, radioiodine did not reduce recurrences in patients with multifocal disease or patients with positive nodes. Patients with positive nodes had more recurrences than node-negative patients regardless of surgical extent or use of radioiodine.
Conclusions: Patients with micropapillary multifocal disease have a reduced risk of recurrence after a T/NTT compared with less surgery. A randomized, controlled trial is necessary and feasible to determine if radioiodine ablation of thyroid remnants is advantageous in patients with intrathyroidal micropapillary cancer.