Unmet Clinical Needs in the Treatment of Patients with Thyroid Cancer

Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020 Mar;35(1):14-25. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2020.35.1.14.


The increased incidence of thyroid cancer is a worldwide phenomenon; however, the issue of overdiagnosis has been most prominent in South Korea. The age-standardized mortality rate of thyroid cancer in Korea steeply increased from 1985 to 2004 (from 0.17 per 100,000 to 0.85 per 100,000), and then decreased until 2015 to 0.42 per 100,000, suggesting that early detection reduced mortality. However, early detection of thyroid cancer may be cost-ineffective, considering its very high prevalence and indolent course. Therefore, risk stratification and tailored management are vitally important, but many prognostic markers can only be evaluated postoperatively. Discovery of preoperative marker(s), especially for small cancers, is the most important unmet clinical need for thyroid cancer. Herein, we discuss some such factors that we recently discovered. Another unmet clinical need is better treatment of radioiodine-refractory (RAIR) differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) and undifferentiated cancers. Although sorafenib and lenvatinib are available, better drugs are needed. We found that phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase, a critical enzyme for serine biosynthesis, could be a novel therapeutic target, and that the lymphocyte-to-monocyte ratio is a prognostic marker of survival in patients with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma or RAIR DTC. Deeper insights are needed into tumor-host interactions in thyroid cancer to improve treatment.

Keywords: Prognosis; Therapeutics; Thyroid neoplasms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment / standards*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents