Recurrence after low-dose radioiodine ablation and recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone for differentiated thyroid cancer (HiLo): long-term results of an open-label, non-inferiority randomised controlled trial

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2019 Jan;7(1):44-51. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(18)30306-1. Epub 2018 Nov 27.


Background: Two large randomised trials of patients with well-differentiated thyroid cancer reported in 2012 (HiLo and ESTIMABL1) found similar post-ablation success rates at 6-9 months between a low administered radioactive iodine (131I) dose (1·1 GBq) and the standard high dose (3·7 GBq). However, recurrence rates following radioactive iodine ablation have previously only been reported in observational studies, and recently in ESTIMABL1. We aimed to compare recurrence rates between radioactive iodine doses in HiLo.

Methods: HiLo was a non-inferiority, parallel, open-label, randomised controlled factorial trial done at 29 centres in the UK. Eligible patients were aged 16-80 years with histological confirmation of differentiated thyroid cancer requiring radioactive iodine ablation (performance status 0-2, tumour stage T1-T3 with the possibility of lymph-node involvement but no distant metastasis and no microscopic residual disease, and one-stage or two-stage total thyroidectomy). Patients were randomly assigned (1:1:1:1) to 1·1 GBq or 3·7 GBq ablation, each prepared with either recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone (rhTSH) or thyroid hormone withdrawal. Patients were followed up at annual clinic visits. Recurrences were diagnosed at each hospital with a combination of established methods according to national standards. We used Kaplan-Meier curves and hazard ratios (HRs) for time to first recurrence, which was a pre-planned secondary outcome. This trial is registered with, number NCT00415233.

Results: Between Jan 16, 2007, and July 1, 2010, 438 patients were randomly assigned. At the end of the follow-up period in Dec 31, 2017, median follow-up was 6·5 years (IQR 4·5-7·6) in 434 patients (217 in the low-dose group and 217 in the high-dose group). Confirmed recurrences were seen in 21 patients: 11 who had 1·1 GBq ablation and ten who had 3·7 GBq ablation. Four of these (two in each group) were considered to be persistent disease. Cumulative recurrence rates were similar between low-dose and high-dose radioactive iodine groups (3 years, 1·5% vs 2·1%; 5 years, 2·1% vs 2·7%; and 7 years, 5·9% vs 7·3%; HR 1·10 [95% CI 0·47-2·59]; p=0·83). No material difference in risk was seen for T3 or N1 disease. Recurrence rates were also similar among patients who were prepared for ablation with rhTSH and those prepared with thyroid hormone withdrawal (3 years, 1·5% vs 2·1%; 5 years, 2·1% vs 2·7%; and 7 years, 8·3% vs 5·0%; HR 1·62 [95% CI 0·67-3·91]; p=0·28). Data on adverse events were not collected during follow-up.

Interpretation: The recurrence rate among patients who had 1·1 GBq radioactive iodine ablation was not higher than that for 3·7 GBq, consistent with data from large, recent observational studies. These findings provide further evidence in favour of using low-dose radioactive iodine for treatment of patients with low-risk differentiated thyroid cancer. Our data also indicate that recurrence risk was not affected by use of rhTSH.

Funding: Cancer Research UK.

Publication types

  • Equivalence Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / therapy*
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemoradiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / administration & dosage*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / pathology
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary / therapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Thyroidectomy*
  • Thyrotropin Alfa / therapeutic use*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Iodine-131
  • Thyrotropin Alfa

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, Hurthle cell

Associated data