What’s New in Research and Treatment for Thymus Cancer?

There is always research going on in the area of thymic tumors. Scientists are looking for causes of thymic tumors, and doctors are working to improve treatments.

Because thymic tumors are relatively rare, more information from clinical trials is needed to decide which treatments are best for each type and stage. For example, the role of chemotherapy in treating thymomas is still being explored. In addition, new treatments are being developed and tested.

Researchers are looking for more accurate ways of predicting the aggressiveness of each tumor so that treatment can be more appropriately selected for each patient.

Some studies are looking to see if giving treatment with chemotherapy (chemo) and/or radiation before surgery can help patients with thymus cancer.

Removing or destroying all of the cancer cells is not the only consideration in treating patients with thymomas. Some paraneoplastic syndromes may persist even after the tumor has been treated. Researchers are studying the causes of these syndromes and the best ways to treat them.

While chemotherapy can often help shrink thymus cancers, it is not always effective and can have serious side effects. Chemo drugs work by attacking rapidly growing cells, which is the main cause of their side effects. As researchers have learned more about what makes cancer cells different from normal cells, they have begun to develop drugs that target these differences. Studies are now testing targeted therapies against cancers of the thymus. These targeted therapies include anti-angiogenesis drugs (which affect tumors by limiting their blood supply) and anti-growth factor drugs (which interfere with substances some cancer cells make to stimulate their own growth). Some of these drugs are already being used to treat other cancers, and are being studied for use against thymus cancers. These include cetuximab, erlotinib, and bevacizumab. Others being studied, such as cixutumumab, milciclib and saracatinib are not yet approved to treat any type of cancer.

Octreotide is a non-chemo drug that can sometimes be helpful in treating thymus cancers. Pasireotide is a similar drug that is now being studied to see if it may be helpful, too.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 7, 2014 Last Revised: March 17, 2015

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