Targeted therapies for papillary and follicular thyroid cancer
The two main types of targeted therapy for thyroid cancer are sorafenib and lenvatinib. They interfere with the way cancer cells grow.
They may be used if the cancer has come back, or has spread and is no longer responding to radioactive iodine treatment.
Sorafenib and lenvatinib are types of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), or multi-kinase inhibitors. They work by blocking (inhibiting) signals in the cancer cells that make them grow and divide. They can help to shrink the cancer and control the growth, sometimes for a long time.
You take sorafenib as tablets you swallow twice a day. You take lenvatinib as capsules you swallow once a day.
The side effects may include:
- a skin rash
- sore hands and feet
- feeling sick and being sick
- loss of appetite
- a sore mouth
- joint and muscle pain
- hair thinning
- high blood pressure.
Your doctor or specialist nurse will give you more information about the drugs and the possible side effects. When you first start, you usually visit the hospital every 2 weeks. This is to check how you are managing the side effects. After this, the visits will be less often.
There are other targeted therapy drugs that are used to treat thyroid cancer. These types of drugs only work if you have a certain gene change (mutation) in the cancer cells. For example, they may work if you had the NTRK, RET or the BRAF gene. Your cancer doctor may send some thyroid tissue from your biopsy or surgery to be checked for these changes.
Your cancer doctor will discuss with you if any of these drugs are suitable and available for you.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our thyroid cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
British Medical Journal. Best Practice Guidelines, Thyroid cancer. 2020.
European Society Medical Oncology (ESMO): Thyroid cancer, Clinical Practice Guidelines for Diagnosis, Treatment and Follow-up. 2019.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). TA535: Lenvatinib and Sorafenib for treating differentiated thyroid cancer after radioactive iodine. 2018. www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta535 [accessed May 2021].
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