Mayo Clinic: Rarely used anaplastic thyroid cancer treatment highly effective

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have said that a new approach to anaplastic thyroid cancer, which is a rare malignancy, has produced significant results, although it has only been used on a small group of patients.

Typically, patients with the disease are treated with surgery and radiation, but the cancer tends to spread fast and the prognosis is poor - researchers say only 10 to 20 percent of individuals live longer than a year after the diagnosis.

Due to this need for a more aggressive approach, the clinic’s doctors treated 10 people between 2003 and 2007 using a novel approach that incorporates post-surgical intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a form of radiation therapy, combined with powerful chemotherapy in order to prevent metastasis.

The doctors reported that the select group experienced one-year survivability of 70 percent. In fact, five of the patients survived at least two years without symptoms. Two of them are still in remission after more than three years.

Dr Keith Bible, a lead investigator of the study, said the results were “far superior to what we have seen before or even expected were possible.”

However, he and his colleagues cautioned that the therapy can be highly toxic and some patients required hospitalization for side effects of the treatment.