Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: A comprehensive review of current and future therapeutic options

World J Clin Oncol. 2011 Mar 10;2(3):150-7. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v2.i3.150.


Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is the rarest, but deadliest histologic type among thyroid malignancies, with a dismal median survival of 3-9 mo. Even though ATC accounts for less than 2% of all thyroid tumors, it is responsible for 14%-39% of thyroid carcinoma-related deaths. ATC clinically presents as a rapidly growing mass in the neck, associated with dyspnoea, dysphagia and vocal cord paralysis. It is usually locally advanced and often metastatic at initial presentation. For operable diseases, the combination of radical surgery with adjuvant radiotherapy or chemotherapy, using agents such as doxorubicin and cisplatin, is the best treatment strategy. Cytotoxic drugs for advanced/metastatic ATC are poorly effective. On the other hand, targeted agents might represent a viable therapeutic option. Axitinib, combretastatin A4, sorafenib and imatinib have been tested in small clinical trials of ATC, with a promising disease control rate ranging from 33% to 75%. Other clinical trials of targeted therapy for thyroid carcinoma are currently ongoing. Biological agents that are under investigation include pazopanib, gefitinib and everolimus. With the very limited therapeutic armamentarium available at the present time, targeted therapy constitutes an exciting new horizon for ATC. In future, biological agents will probably represent the standard of care for this aggressive malignancy, in the same fashion as it has recently occurred for other chemo-refractory tumors, such as kidney and hepatic cancer.

Keywords: Anaplastic thyroid cancer; Targeted agents.