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Open access

Joseph A Chorny, John J Orrego and José Manuel Cameselle-Teijeiro

Summary

Most medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs) are low grade and produce calcitonin. There are some calcitonin-negative MTCs that produce only calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Rarely, MTCs are negative for calcitonin and CGRP peptides, but contain their corresponding mRNAs. Primary thyroid neuroendocrine neoplasms other than MTCs are extremely rare. We describe a primary high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma that was negative for CGRP and calcitonin at both the protein and mRNA levels. A 42-year-old woman presented with a rapidly enlarging thyroid mass replacing most of the left lobe and isthmus. A computed tomography-guided core-needle biopsy was performed. The tumor was composed of sheets of small-to-medium sized epithelial cells. The cells were immunoreactive for pancytokeratin, synaptophysin, CD56 and thyroid transcription factor-1, but negative for CK7, CK20, CD45, CD99, ERG, chromogranin A, thyroglobulin, calcitonin, CGRP and carcinoembryonic antigen. The Ki-67 proliferation index was ~90%. In situ hybridization was negative for calcitonin mRNA. The patient was initially diagnosed as having a small cell carcinoma. She was treated with cisplatin and etoposide (VP16), followed by radiation therapy. Given the excellent clinical course, the tumor was reviewed and reclassified as a high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma (non-small-cell type). Heretofore, only a few other similar high-grade neuroendocrine tumors with negative markers of C-cell derivation have been reported. In our case, the patient is cancer free five years after diagnosis, but in the other cases, the outcome was poor.

Learning points:

  • There are neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid that do not produce calcitonin or calcitonin gene-related peptide.

  • This category of calcitonin-negative neuroendocrine carcinomas is heterogeneous, consisting of low- and high-grade tumors.

  • The high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid are rare and generally have a poor prognosis. They are divided into small cell and non-small cell or large cell types.

Open access

Alex González Bóssolo, Michelle Mangual Garcia, Paula Jeffs González, Miosotis Garcia, Guillermo Villarmarzo and Jose Hernán Martinez

Summary

Classical papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) is a variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) known to have excellent prognosis. It has a mortality of 0.3%, even in the presence of distance metastasis. The latest American Thyroid Association guidelines state that although lobectomy is acceptable, active surveillance can be considered in the appropriate setting. We present the case of a 37-year-old female with a history of PTMC who underwent surgical management consisting of a total thyroidectomy. Although she has remained disease-free, her quality of life has been greatly affected by the sequelae of this procedure. This case serves as an excellent example of how first-line surgical treatment may result more harmful than the disease itself.

Learning points:

  • Papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) has an excellent prognosis with a mortality of less than 1% even with the presence of distant metastases.

  • Active surveillance is a reasonable management approach for appropriately selected patients.

  • Patients should be thoroughly oriented about the risks and benefits of active surveillance vs immediate surgical treatment. This discussion should include the sequelae of surgery and potential impact on quality of life, especially in the younger population.

  • More studies are needed for stratification of PTMC behavior to determine if conservative management is adequate for all patients with this specific disease variant.

Open access

Shamil D Cooray and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

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.

Learning points:

  • 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.