Twenty-Five Years After Chernobyl: Outcome of Radioiodine Treatment in Children and Adolescents With Very High-Risk Radiation-Induced Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma

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Abstract

Context:

After severe reactor emergencies with release of radioactive iodine, elevated thyroid cancer risk in children and adolescents is considered the main health consequence for the population exposed.

Design:

We studied thyroid cancer outcome after 11.3 years' median follow-up in a selected, very high-risk cohort, 234 Chernobyl-exposed Belarusian children and adolescents undergoing postsurgical radioiodine therapy (RIT) in Germany.

Interventions:

Cumulatively 100 children with or (without; n = 134) distant metastasis received a median 4 (2) RITs and 16.9 (6.6) GBq, corresponding to 368 (141) MBq/kg iodine-131.

Main Outcome Measures:

Outcomes were response to therapy and disease status, mortality, and treatment toxicity.

Results:

Of 229 patients evaluable for outcome, 147 (64.2%) attained complete remission [negative iodine-131 whole-body scan and TSH-stimulated serum thyroglobulin (Tg) < 1 μg /L], 69 (30.1%) showed nearly complete remission (complete response, except stimulated Tg 1–10 μg/L), and 11 (4.8%) had partial remission (Tg > 10 μg/L, decrease from baseline in radioiodine uptake intensity in ≥ 1 focus, in tumor volume or in Tg). Except for 2 recurrences (0.9%) after partial remission, no recurrences, progression, or disease-specific mortality were noted. One patient died of lung fibrosis 17.5 years after therapy, 2 of apparently thyroid cancer-unrelated causes. The only RIT side effect observed was pulmonary fibrosis in 5 of 69 patients (7.2%) with disseminated lung metastases undergoing intensive pulmonary surveillance.

Conclusions:

Experience of a large, very high-risk pediatric cohort with radiation-induced differentiated thyroid carcinoma suggests that even when such disease is advanced and initially suboptimally treated, response to subsequent RIT and final outcomes are mostly favorable.

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