Innovative strategies for the treatment of thyroid cancer
European Journal of Endocrinology
Normally, thyroid cancer is a disease with a good prognosis, but about 30% of the tumours dedifferentiate and may ®nally develop into highly malignant anaplastic thyroid carcinomas with a mean survival time of less than 8 months. Due to the loss of thyroid-speci®c functions associated with dedifferentiation, these tumours are inaccessible to standard therapeutic procedures such as radioiodide therapy and thyroxine-mediated thyrotrophin suppression. Medullary thyroid carcinomas are also highly
... s are also highly aggressive. Here, therapy is limited to surgery, and no alternative is left if patients do not respond to this standard procedure. Obviously, new approaches would be desirable. Several novel approaches are currently being tested for the treatment of thyroid cancer. Many of them utilise methods of gene therapy, but follow different strategies: (1) reintroduction of the tumour suppressor p53 into a background lacking functional p53; (2) suicide gene therapy with ganciclovir and a transduced gene for herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase controlled by the thyroglobulin promoter; (3) strengthening of the antitumour immune response by expression of an adenovirus-delivered interleukin-2 (IL-2) gene; (4) induction of an immune response by DNA vaccination against the tumour marker calcitonin; (5) transduction of the thyroid sodium/iodide transporter gene to make tissues that do not accumulate iodide treatable by radioiodide therapy; (6) blocking of the expression of the oncogene c-myc by antisense oligonucleotides. While these approaches are still tested in vitro or in animal models, ®rst results from pilot studies concerning other novel treatment modalities are available: (7) radioimmunotherapy exploits the carcinoembryonic antigen expressed on medullary thyroid carcinomas to target a radiolabelled antibody to the tumour; and (8) retinoic acid is used for a redifferentiation therapy in the case of thyroid cancer. Hopefully, one or the other of these novel strategies may probably extend after some time the current therapeutic repertoire for thyroid cancers and provide a perspective for otherwise untreatable patients.