ANAPLASTIC THYROID CARCINOMA: DISMAL OUTCOME DESPITE CURRENT TREATMENT APPROACH

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Abstract

Background

Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) accounts for <5% of all thyroid malignancies and is one of the most aggressive malignancies known. Survival is limited to months and death is often caused by uncontrolled neck disease. There is evidence that multimodality treatment, incorporating surgery (Sx), external beam radiotherapy (RT) and chemotherapy (CT), might enhance local control and improve survival.

Methods

Between 1979 and 2002, 18 patients with ATC were referred to the multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Service, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia. The aim of the present study is to report on the treatment and outcome of these patients. Survival was calculated from the time of diagnosis until death using the Kaplan–Meier method.

Results

Median age at diagnosis was 72 years (29–92 years) in 12 women and six men. Five patients had distant metastases at diagnosis. Seven patients were treated with various combinations of Sx, RT and/or CT. Ten patients received a single modality, including three undergoing a total thyroidectomy. Many patients died from local disease progression. Only one patient received triple modality treatment (Sx/RT/CT), surviving 26 months, and maintaining local control until death. Sixteen patients died from disease with a median survival of 6.2 months (0.3–56.8 months).

Conclusion

Most patients with ATC are incurable; however, a multimodality approach incorporating Sx and RT ± CT, in selected individuals, might improve local control and extend survival.

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