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Medullary thyroid cancer: therapeutic targets and molecular markers

Ball, Douglas W

doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e32801173ea
Endocrine tumors

Purpose of review The present review will provide an update of important studies in medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) with an emphasis on targeted preclinical and translational research studies published over the past 2 years.

Recent findings Recent advances in the biology of MTC, particularly in RET proto-oncogene signaling, are now being translated into promising new therapies and biomarkers. Multifunction tyrosine kinase inhibitors that target RET, plus vascular endothelial growth factor receptors and additional kinases, are now being evaluated in Phase II clinical trials in MTC. Important unanswered questions include the optimal means for selecting high-risk patients, appropriate biomarkers for monitoring kinase inhibitor trials, and trial endpoints. Similar to ABL, epidermal growth factor receptors and other kinases, individual mutant RET forms have differential sensitivity to different inhibitors. In addition to RET, an old marker, calcitonin, has assumed increasing importance, but may not adequately reflect changes in tumor burden in RET inhibitor trials. A number of new therapeutic strategies are being developed that could be appropriate for the ∼50% of patients who lack RET mutations in their tumors.

Summary Progress is being made toward effective targeted MTC therapy. Patients with advanced, progressive MTC should be considered for enrollment in clinical trials.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Douglas W. Ball, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Oncology, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Suite 333, 1830 E Monument Street, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA Tel: +1 410 502 6888; fax: +1 410 955 8172; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.