Background: Whether differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) occurring concomitantly with Graves' disease (GD) is more aggressive and bound to a less favorable outcome is controversial.
Objective: Aim of this multicenter retrospective study was to compare baseline features and outcome of DTC patients with GD (DTC/GD+) or without GD (DTC/GD-).
Patients: Enrolled in this study were 579 patients referred to five endocrine units (Cagliari, Pavia, Pisa, Siena, and Varese) between 2005 and 2014: 193 patients had DTC/GD+ , 386 DTC/GD-. Patients were matched for age, gender and tumor size. They underwent surgery because of malignancy, large goiter size, or relapse of hyperthyroidism in GD.
Results: Baseline DTC features (histology, lymph node metastases, extrathyroidal extension) did not differ in the two groups, except for multifocality which was significantly more frequent in DTC/GD+ (27.5% vs. 7.5%, p < 0.0001). At the end of follow-up (median 7.5 years), 86% of DTC/GD+ and 89.6% DTC/GD- patients were free of disease. Patients with persistent or recurrent disease (PRD) had "biochemical disease" in the majority of cases. Microcarcinomas were more frequent in the DTC/GD+ group (60% vs. 37%, p < 0.0001) and had an excellent outcome, with no difference in PRD between groups. However, in carcinomas ≥ 1 cm, PRD was significantly more common in DTC/GD+ (24.4% vs. 11.5%; p = 0.005). In the whole group, univariate and multivariate analyses showed that GD+ , lymph node involvement, extrathyroidal invasion, multifocality and tall cell histotype were associated with a worse outcome. Female gender and microcarcinomas were favorable features. No association was found between baseline TSH-receptor antibody levels and outcome. Graves' orbitopathy (GO) seemed to be associated with a better outcome of DTC, possibly because patients with GO may early undergo surgery for hyperthyroidism.
Conclusions: GD may be associated with a worse outcome of coexisting DTC only if cancer is ≥ 1 cm, whereas clinical outcome of microcarcinomas is not related to the presence/absence of GD.
Keywords: Graves’ disease; Graves’ orbitopathy; Outcome; Radioiodine; TSH-receptor antibody; Thyroid carcinoma; Thyroidectomy.