Thyroid cancer incidence is rising annually largely related to enhanced detection and early stage well-differentiated primary tumors. The prognosis for patients with early stage thyroid cancer is outstanding with most patients being cured with surgery. In selected cases, I-131 is administered to treat known or suspected residual or metastatic disease. Even patients with loco-regional metastases typically have an outstanding long-term prognosis, albeit with monitoring and occasional intervention for residual or recurrent disease. By contrast, individuals with distant metastases from thyroid cancer, particularly older patients with larger metastatic burdens and those with poorly differentiated tumors, have a poor prognosis. Patients with metastatic anaplastic thyroid cancer have a particularly poor prognosis. Published clinical trials indicate that transient disease control and partial remissions can be achieved with kinase inhibitor therapy directed toward angiogenic targets and that in some cases I-131 uptake can be enhanced. However, the direct targets of activity in metastatic lesions are incompletely defined and clear evidence that these treatments increase the duration or quality of life of patients is lacking, underscoring the need for improved knowledge regarding the metastatic process to inform the development of new therapies. In this review, we will focus on current data and hypotheses regarding key regulators of metastatic dormancy, metastatic progression, and the role of putative cancer stem cells.
Keywords: angiogenesis; metastases; metastases suppressors; thyroid carcinoma; tumor stem cells.