Targeted drug therapy
Targeted therapy refers to drug treatments that are designed to attack faulty signalling mechanisms in thyroid cancer cells. These drugs are also called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) or multikinase inhibitors (MKIs). A number of different drugs have been studied in thyroid cancer patients with papillary, follicular and medullary thyroid cancer. The drugs include sorafenib (NexavarR), lenvatinib (LenvimaR), vandetanib (CaprelsaR) and cabozantinib (CometriqR).
Some of these are now available for use when thyroid cancer has spread to other parts of the body, is growing and is associated with troublesome symptoms. These drugs are not universally available and are not suitable for everyone. Your doctor will talk to you about any suitable options.
These drugs are given in tablet form on a daily basis and may be taken continuously for months to years if they are being tolerated and there is evidence of benefit.
All of these drugs are associated with side effects and the severity can vary markedly between people. Some patients may have other medical conditions or be taking medications that make targeted therapy drugs unsuitable.
Some of these drugs are not yet available either because the final results from the clinical studies are not yet known or because the drug has not yet been granted a license for use. This area is changing quite quickly so check the up to date situation with your thyroid cancer specialist.
New drugs or existing drugs used in different ways may be available through clinical trials. Not all cancer centres can offer these clinical trials but it is common practice for patients to be referred on to the nearest participating centre if they wish to be considered for these reserach studies.