Targeted therapies for thyroid cancer

The two main types of targeted therapy for thyroid cancer are sorafenib and lenvatinib. They interfere with the way cancer cells grow.

Types of targeted therapy

Targeted therapies interfere with the way that cancer cells grow.

The two main targeted therapy drugs used to treat follicular or papillary thyroid cancer are:

They can both be used if the cancer has come back or spread (metastatic or advanced cancer) and is no longer responding to radioactive iodine treatment.

Sorafenib and lenvatinib

Sorafenib and lenvatinib are types of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) or multi-kinase inhibitors. Kinases are proteins that regulate the way cells grow and divide.

The drugs work by blocking (inhibiting) signals in the cancer cells that make them grow and divide. Blocking the signals makes the cells die. The drugs can also stop the cancer cells developing new blood vessels. This reduces their supply of oxygen and nutrients, so the tumour shrinks or stops growing.

You take sorafenib as tablets you swallow twice a day. You take lenvatinib as capsules you swallow once a day.

The side effects are generally mild and include:

Your doctor or specialist nurse will give you more information about the possible side effects.

Sorafenib and lenvatinib may not be widely available on the NHS. If a drug is not available on the NHS, there may be different ways you are still able to have it. Your doctor can give you advice.

They may be able to apply for funding to get it. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 for more information on what you can do if a treatment is not available.

Other targeted therapies

Clinical trials are being carried out to see if other targeted therapies may be useful for treating follicular or papillary thyroid cancer. This includes the drugs: