Targeted therapy for thyroid cancer
Targeted therapy drugs attack specific features of cancer cells to stop the cancer growing and spreading. The most common targeted therapy drugs used for thyroid cancer are tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). These drugs block the chemical messengers (enzymes) that help tell cancer cells to grow, multiply and spread.
If you have advanced thyroid cancer that hasn’t responded to RAI treatment, you may be offered a TKI such as lenvatinib or sorafenib. These drugs are given as a pill, which you take daily. You will usually keep taking the pills for several years.
Other TKIs may be available on clinical trials. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether you are a suitable candidate.
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Side effects of targeted therapy
The most common side effects of TKIs include diarrhoea, skin rash, bleeding and high blood pressure. In some people, TKIs can affect the way the heart and kidneys work. Some TKIs can also cause tenderness, tingling and blisters on the skin of the palms and soles.
It is important to tell your doctor about any side effects immediately. If left untreated, some side effects can become life-threatening. Your doctor will explain what to watch out for, and will monitor you throughout treatment.
New treatments for thyroid cancerMost thyroid cancers respond well to the standard treatments. However, a small number of thyroid cancers are more difficult to treat, so new treatments are being investigated.
Immunotherapy is a type of drug treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. In Australia, immunotherapy drugs are currently available for some cancers, such as melanoma and lung cancer. Clinical trials are currently testing whether immunotherapy works for anaplastic thyroid cancer.
For advanced medullary thyroid cancer, a type of nuclear medicine known as radiopeptide therapy may be available. This is also known as peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). The treatment involves an injection of a protein (peptide) that has been combined with a small amount of radioactive substance (radionuclide). This mixture targets cancer cells and delivers a high dose of radiation that kills or damages them.
Talk to your specialist to find out more about new treatments and clinical trials.
Video: What is targeted therapy?
A/Prof Diana Learoyd, Endocrinologist, Northern Cancer Institute, and Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Gabrielle Cehic, Nuclear Medicine Physician and Oncologist, South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI), and Senior Staff Specialist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Dr Kiernan Hughes, Endocrinologist, Northern Endocrine and St Vincents Hospital, NSW; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Christine Lai, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Breast and Endocrine Surgical Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Surgery, University of Adelaide, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and The University of Western Australia, WA; Ilona Lillington, Clinical Nurse Consultant (Thyroid and Brachytherapy), Cancer Care Services, Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, QLD; Jonathan Park, Consumer.
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Targeted therapy is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. Other names for targeted therapy include biological therapies and molecular targeted therapy.