- How is thyroid cancer treated?
- Surgery for thyroid cancer
- Radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer
- Thyroid hormone treatment
- External beam radiation therapy for thyroid cancer
- Chemotherapy for thyroid cancer
- Targeted therapy for thyroid cancer
- Clinical trials for thyroid cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for thyroid cancer
Targeted therapy for thyroid cancer
As researchers have learned more about the changes inside cells that cause them to become cancer, they have created newer drugs that are aimed right at (target) these changes. Unlike standard chemo drugs, which work on all quickly growing cells as well as cancer cells, these drugs attack one or more exact places on cancer cells.
Targeted drugs for medullary thyroid cancer
Vandetanib (Caprelsa) is a targeted drug taken as a pill once a day. In patients with advanced medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), it has been shown to stop cancers from growing for a number of months, but it is not yet clear if it can help people live longer. Some common side effects of this drug include diarrhea, rash, nausea, high blood pressure, headache, fatigue, decreased appetite, and belly pain. Rarely, it can also cause problems with heart rhythm and infection that can lead to death. Because of these side effects, doctors must get special training before they are allowed to prescribe this drug.
Cabozantinib (Cometriq) is also taken in pill form once a day. It has been shown to help stop MTC from growing for several months. So far, though, it has not been shown to help patients live longer. Common side effects include diarrhea, constipation, belly pain, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, high blood pressure, loss of hair color, and hand-foot syndrome (redness, pain, and swelling of the hands and feet). Rarely, this drug can also cause serious side effects, such as severe bleeding and holes in the intestine.
Several other targeted drugs have shown promising early results against MTC as well.
Targeted drugs for papillary or follicular thyroid cancer
Most of these cancers can be treated well with surgery and radioactive iodine, so there is less need for other drugs to treat them. But for cancers in which these treatments don’t work, targeted drugs have shown some early promise and may be helpful.
Last Medical Review: 05/09/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014