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New Treatment Approach to Rare Cancer Results in Prolonged Survival

Researchers at Mayo Clinic say a nationwide clinical trial is also planned

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 26, 2010 - Aggressive treatment of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma has dramatically increased survival in the small group of patients who chose to undergo it, say physicians at Mayo Clinic. Their findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, to be held June 4-8 in Chicago.

Mayo oncologists say this new approach reflects the need to aggressively treat metastasis even when this rare cancer seems to be confined to the neck. Historically, anaplastic thyroid cancer has been treated with surgery and radiation, but due to rapid spread of microscopic cancer, only between 10 and 20 percent of patients survive past a year. Because the prognosis for this cancer is so poor, Mayo physicians felt that a more aggressive pilot approach that added in chemotherapy early on was merited.

Of 24 patients with newly diagnosed anaplastic thyroid cancer seen at Mayo Clinic between 2003 and 2007, 10 patients with local disease elected to pursue the aggressive approach. After surgery, the patients were treated with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a more tailored form of radiation therapy than has been used before, and with aggressive chemotherapy (docetaxel and doxorubicin) in efforts to simultaneously control disease in the neck and forestall metastasis.

One-year survival in this group was 70 percent, with six of the 10 patients (60 percent) alive at least two years post-treatment — five of them without evidence of disease. Two of these patients were treated more than three years ago and are still in remission.

“The results are far superior to what we have seen before or even expected were possible,” says Keith Bible, M.D., Ph.D., a lead investigator of the study, along with Robert Foote, M.D., and Julian Molina, M.D., Ph.D.

However, the benefits come at the cost of toxicity, the researchers add.

“Toxicity is a very real issue, to the point that many patients required hospitalization related to side effects from the therapy, but no deaths resulted from therapy,” says Dr. Bible, who is presenting the results. Of the four patients who have died to date, all succumbed to their disease, not to treatment effects.

Dr. Bible added that a clinical trial formally testing two approaches to the addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy in a randomized fashion will be launched in the fall and will include other centers nationwide. The new study will use a related chemotherapy drug, paclitaxel, as well as the addition of a targeted therapy. Dr. Bible will co-lead the study along with Eric Sherman, M.D., from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and others.

Mayo Clinic is regarded as a center of excellence for the treatment of anaplastic thyroid cancer due to the clinic's specialization in thyroid and endocrine cancers — an expertise that dates back to the practice of thyroid surgeon Charles H. Mayo, M.D., one of the founders of Mayo Clinic. “We have become seriously focused on how to treat these and other rare endocrine cancers more effectively,” Dr. Bible says.

VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources, including excerpts from an interview with Dr. Keith Bible, are available on the Mayo Clinic News Blog.

About Mayo Clinic
For more than 100 years, millions of people from all walks of life have found answers at Mayo Clinic. These patients tell us they leave Mayo Clinic with peace of mind knowing they received care from the world's leading experts. Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. At Mayo Clinic, a team of specialists is assembled to take the time to listen, understand and care for patients' health issues and concerns. These teams draw from more than 3,700 physicians and scientists and 50,100 allied staff that work at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To best serve patients, Mayo Clinic works with many insurance companies, does not require a physician referral in most cases and is an in-network provider for millions of people. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your general health information.

Contact: Mayo Clinic
Karl Oestreich
612-910-0860 (cell – Chicago)
507-284-5005 (days)
507-284-2511 (evenings)
e-mail: newsbureau@mayo.edu

 

Posted: May 2010

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