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There's 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 rare, more information from clinical trials is needed to decide which treatments are best for each type and stage. For instance, the role of chemotherapy in treating thymomas is still being explored. New treatments are also being developed and tested. For example, it's been suggested that hyperthermic intrathoracic chemotherapy (called HITHOC) during surgery might be useful in late stage thymic cancers. But more research is needed.
Researchers are looking for more accurate ways of predicting how aggressive a tumor is so the best treatment can be chosen. Improving imaging tests may also help doctors better decide which tumors can be safely removed with surgery.
Some studies are looking to see if treating with chemotherapy (chemo) and/or radiation before and/or after surgery can help keep thymus cancer from coming back.
Removing or destroying all the cancer cells is not the only goal in treating 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 doesn't always work and can have serious side effects. Chemo drugs work by attacking fast-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 been able to make drugs that target these differences. Many of these drugs are already being used to treat other cancers. Researchers are trying to learn more about the genetic changes in thymus cancer cells. And studies are needed to look at how targeted therapies might be used to treat these cancers. 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, sunitinib, avelumab, pembrolizumab, erlotinib, and bevacizumab. Others being studied are not yet approved to treat any type of cancer.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
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National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Thymomas and Thymic Carcinomas. Version 1.2017--March 2, 2017.
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Ried M, Marx A, Götz A, Hamer O, Schalke B, Hofmann HS. State of the art: diagnostic tools and innovative therapies for treatment of advanced thymoma and thymic carcinoma. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2016;49(6):1545-1552.
Last Revised: October 4, 2017
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