A 58-year-old man with metastatic radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) presented with left thigh and right flank numbness. He had known progressive and widespread bony metastases, for which he received palliative radiotherapy, and multiple bilateral asymptomatic pulmonary metastases. CT scan and MRI of the spine revealed metastases at right T10–L1 vertebrae with extension into the central canal and epidural disease at T10 and T11 causing cord displacement and canal stenosis but retention of spinal cord signal. Spinal surgery was followed by palliative radiotherapy resulting in symptom resolution. Two months later, sorafenib received approval for use in Australia and was commenced and up-titrated with symptomatic management of mild adverse effects. Follow-up CT scan three months after commencement of sorafenib revealed regression of pulmonary metastases but no evident change in most bone metastases except for an advancing lesion eroding into the right acetabulum. The patient underwent a right total hip replacement, intra-lesional curettage and cementing. After six months of sorafenib therapy, CT scanning showed enlarging liver lesions with marked elevation of serum thyroglobulin. Lenvatinib was commenced and sorafenib was ceased. He now has stable disease with a falling thyroglobulin more than 5 years after metastatic radioiodine-refractory DTC was diagnosed.
In DTC, 5% of distant metastases become radioiodine-refractory, resulting in a median overall survival of 2.5–3.5 years. Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy has recently been demonstrated to increase progression-free survival in these patients but poses some unique management issues and is best used as part of an integrated approach with directed therapy.
- Directed therapies may have greater potential to control localised disease and related symptoms when compared to systemic therapies.
- Consider TKI therapy in progressive disease where benefits outweigh risks.
- Active surveillance and timely intervention are required for TKI-related adverse effects.
- There is a need for further research on the clinical application of TKI therapy in advanced DTC, including comparative efficacy, sequencing and identifying responders.