Parathyroid carcinoma: Challenges in diagnosis and treatment

Ann Endocrinol (Paris). 2015 May;76(2):169-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ando.2015.03.003. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Parathyroid carcinoma is a malignant neoplasm affecting 0.5 to 5.0% of all patients suffering from primary hyperparathyroidism. This cancer continues to cause challenges for diagnosis and treatment because of its rarity, overlapping features with benign parathyroid disease, and lack of distinct characteristics. The third/second generation PTH assay ratio provides valuable information to distinguish between benign parathyroid disease and parathyroid carcinoma. An abnormal ratio (>1) could indicate a high suspicion regarding carcinoma and metastatic disease. Early en bloc surgical resection of the primary tumour with clear margins remains the best curative treatment. Although prolonged survival is possible with recurrent or metastatic disease, cure is rarely achievable. The efficacy of classical adjuvant therapies, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, in management of persistent, recurrent, or metastatic disease has been disappointing. In metastatic disease the goal of therapeutic support is to control the PTH-driven hypercalcemia that represents the primary cause of mortality. Calcimimetics, which are allosteric modulators of the calcium sensing receptor, have a sustained effect in lowering serum calcium levels. Bone anti-resorptive therapy, like intravenous bisphosphonates (pamidronate and zolendronate), or more recently denosumab (fully human monoclonal antibody with high affinity to bind RANK ligand) might be temporarily useful. In a small number of cases treated with anti-PTH immunotherapy, inducing anti-PTH antibodies, promising results have been seen with clinical improvements and decrease of calcemia. In one case metastasis shrinkage has been observed.

Keywords: Carcinome parathyroïdien; Chirurgie; Hypercalcemia; Hypercalcémie; Immunotherapy; Immunothérapie; PTH ratio; Parathyroid carcinoma; Surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Primary / complications
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Parathyroid Hormone / analysis
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Risk Factors


  • Parathyroid Hormone