Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid gland (ATC) is one of the most aggressive cancers in humans. With insufficient treatment, the disease most often leads to death in suffocation. From 2002, our treatment strategy has been hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy (HART) with high doses (64 Gy) to the neck, followed by surgery 4-8 weeks later if feasible, with the aim to gain control in the neck. After a pathology review, 51 patients were diagnosed with ATC in the period 2002-2014 in the south-east of Norway. Thirty-one received HART, and we present a study of these patients, with death in suffocation as the primary endpoint and survival as the second. No patients treated with HART died in suffocation. Six had a tracheostomy during their course of disease, of whom four were dependent on a tracheal cannula when they died. The best median survival, 19 months, was obtained in the 13 patients where both radiotherapy and surgery were possible as primary treatments. Only surgery came out as a prognostic factor for survival in multivariate analysis. Patients surviving more than 2 years were characterised by having surgery with R0 resection and no or small residual foci of ATC in the specimens. Stage 4C patients survived 3 months only.
Keywords: Anaplastic thyroid cancer; Hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy; Radiotherapy; Thyroid surgery.