Management of medullary thyroid carcinoma and MEN2 syndromes in childhood

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011 Aug 23;7(10):596-607. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2011.139.


Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and the multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2 syndromes are rare but important endocrine diseases that are increasingly managed by pediatric providers. MTC is generally associated with a favorable prognosis when diagnosed during childhood, where it frequently occurs secondary to activating mutations in the RET proto-oncogene and arises from pre-existing C-cell hyperplasia. MEN2A accounts for 90-95% of childhood MTC cases and is most commonly due to mutations in codon 634 of RET. MEN2B is associated with the most aggressive clinical presentation of MTC and is almost always due to the Met918Thr mutation of RET. Surgery is the primary treatment and only chance of cure, although the advent of targeted therapies seems to be improving progression-free survival in advanced cases. Since the discovery of the role of RET in MEN2A, considerable advances in the management of this syndrome have occurred, and most of the children with MEN2A who have undergone early thyroidectomy will now lead full, productive lives. Strong genotype-phenotype correlations have facilitated the development of guidelines for interventions. Contemporary approaches for deciding the appropriate age at which surgery should take place incorporate data from ultrasonography and calcitonin measurements in addition to the results of genotyping. To optimize care and to facilitate ongoing research, children with MTC and the MEN2 syndromes are optimally treated at tertiary centers with multidisciplinary expertise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Medullary / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Medullary / therapy*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / diagnosis
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2a / therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*