Thyroid cancer is commonly treated by one or a combination of treatments, including surgery, hormone treatment, radioactive iodine, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
Surgery: surgery for the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue is the main treatment for most people with thyroid cancers.
Depending on the size of the nodule, common surgical options include:
Lobectomy: surgery that removes the gland’s lobe with the cancerous nodule.
Near-total thyroidectomy: surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland.
Total thyroidectomy: surgery that removes the entire thyroid gland.
The discovery of the genetic causes of familial (inherited) medullary thyroid cancer now makes it possible to identify family members carrying the abnormal RET gene and to remove the thyroid to prevent cancer from developing there.
Hormone treatment: patients who are treated with surgery for papillary, follicular, and medullary thyroid cancers usually require thyroid hormone therapy to replace necessary hormones. Thyroid hormone replacement may include levothyroxine, Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint, or Unithroid.
Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy: RAI Therapy (also called I-131) is a type of radiation therapy using radioactive iodine to find and destroy cancer cells that were not removed by surgery for patients with papillary and follicular thyroid cancer.
Targeted therapies: targeted drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) may help treat thyroid cancer cells with specific gene mutations, such as BRAF and RET/PTC.
In many papillary thyroid cancers, the cells have changes in the BRAF gene, which help cancer cell growth. Drugs that target cells with BRAF gene changes include vemurafenib (Zelboraf®), dabrafenib, and selumetinib, sorafenib (Nexavar®), sunitinib (Sutent®), pazopanib (Votrient®), cabozantinib (Cometriq), motesanib (AMG 706), axitinib (Inlyta®), and vandetanib (Caprelsa®).
New targeted drugs for medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) include Vandetanib and cabozantinib.
Anti-angiogenesis drugs: Anti-angiogenesis drugs work by disrupting the ability of tumors to develop new blood vessels. Some of the TKIs, such as axitinib, motesanib, sunitinib, sorafenib, pazopanib, and cabozantinib, have anti-angiogenic properties. Other anti-angiogenesis drugs being studied for use against thyroid cancer include bevacizumab (Avastin®), lenalidomide (Revlimid®), and lenvatinib.
Chemotherapy: combination therapy of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol®) with the targeted drug efatutazone may be a treatment option for patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer, as well as combination therapy of chemotherapy and radiation.
For anaplastic thyroid cancer, clinical trials are studying combination chemotherapy. One study is comparing the results of either carboplatin (Paraplatin) and paclitaxel (Taxol) alone or with an experimental drug, combretastatin A4 phosphate (CA4P, fosbretabulin, Zybrestat).