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Poorly differentiated thyroid cancer

Patel, Kepal N.a; Shaha, Ashok R.b

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: April 2014 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 121–126
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000037
HEAD AND NECK ONCOLOGY: Edited by Piero Nicolai and Cesare Piazza

Purpose of review Poorly differentiated thyroid carcinomas (PDTCs) comprise a small subset of heterogeneous thyroid tumors, occupying an intermediate area between well differentiated follicular or papillary carcinoma and anaplastic carcinomas, from both a histopathogenetic and a clinical point of view. PDTCs are more aggressive than the well differentiated, but less aggressive than the anaplastic thyroid cancers. They have a distinct biological behavior, and the classification of these tumors into a separate group appears justified.

Recent findings The criteria used to diagnose PDTC have been an area of controversy. The multiple definitions of PDTC make the literature difficult to interpret. No clinical features can accurately diagnose PDTCs. Thus, the results of histocytology, immunohistochemistry, and molecular genetics tests aid in diagnosis. Given the aggressiveness of PDTCs, with increased recurrence and decreased survival rates, a multimodality treatment approach is required.

Summary We conducted a comprehensive review of the current diagnostic and therapeutic tools in the management of patients with PDTCs. The present article aims to review the various aspects of this tumor type, from morphology to immunohistochemistry, and molecular abnormalities from a practical and daily practice-oriented point of view.

aDivision of Endocrine Surgery, NYU Langone Medical Center

bHead and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA

Correspondence to Kepal N. Patel, MD, FACS, Chief, Division of Endocrine Surgery, Associate Professor of Surgery, Biochemistry and Otolaryngology, Director, Thyroid Cancer Interdisciplinary Program, NYU Langone Medical Center, 530 First Avenue, Suite 6H, New York, NY 10016, USA. Tel: +1 212 263 7710; fax: +1 212 263 2828; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins