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    Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Thymoma


    Long-term survival rates following induction chemotherapy and surgery with or without radiation therapy and consolidation chemotherapy have ranged from 50% at 4 years, 77% at 7 years and, respectively, 86% and 76% for stage III and IV patients at 10 years in different published series.[14,16,17,22]

    However, similar results have been reported with preoperative radiation therapy without chemotherapy, particularly if great vessels are involved (5-year overall survival rate of 77% and 10-year OS rate of 59%).[23,24]

    An intergroup trial conducted in the United States reported a predicted 5-year OS rate of 52% in 26 patients receiving the PAC chemotherapy regimen followed by radiation therapy without surgery.[18]

    The role of surgical debulking for patients with either stage III or stage IVA disease is controversial. Phase II data suggests that prolonged survival can be accomplished with chemotherapy and radiation therapy alone in many patients presenting with locally advanced or even metastatic thymoma.[18] Therefore, the value of surgery may be questioned if complete, or at the very least, near complete extirpation cannot be accomplished.

    Current Clinical Trials

    Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage III thymoma and stage IV thymoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

    General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

    Standard treatment options for patients with operable disease include the following:

    1. En bloc surgical resection.
    2. PORT may be considered, especially for patients with close or involved surgical margins and for stage III and stage IVA patients.
    3. Induction chemotherapy followed by surgery with or without radiation.

    Standard treatment options for patients with inoperable disease (stage III and stage IV with vena caval obstruction, pleural involvement, pericardial implants, etc.) include the following:

    1. Induction chemotherapy followed by surgery or radiation.
    2. Induction chemotherapy followed by surgery and radiation.
    3. Radiation therapy.
    4. Chemotherapy.

    Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

    Areas of active clinical evaluation for patients with thymoma include the following:

    • New drug regimens.
    • Variation of drug doses in current regimens.
    • New radiation therapy schedules and techniques.


    1. Maggi G, Casadio C, Cavallo A, et al.: Thymoma: results of 241 operated cases. Ann Thorac Surg 51 (1): 152-6, 1991.
    2. Masaoka A, Monden Y, Nakahara K, et al.: Follow-up study of thymomas with special reference to their clinical stages. Cancer 48 (11): 2485-92, 1981.
    3. Pollack A, Komaki R, Cox JD, et al.: Thymoma: treatment and prognosis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 23 (5): 1037-43, 1992.
    4. Ogawa K, Uno T, Toita T, et al.: Postoperative radiotherapy for patients with completely resected thymoma: a multi-institutional, retrospective review of 103 patients. Cancer 94 (5): 1405-13, 2002.
    5. Ariaratnam LS, Kalnicki S, Mincer F, et al.: The management of malignant thymoma with radiation therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 5 (1): 77-80, 1979.
    6. Penn CR, Hope-Stone HF: The role of radiotherapy in the management of malignant thymoma. Br J Surg 59 (7): 533-9, 1972.
    7. Curran WJ Jr, Kornstein MJ, Brooks JJ, et al.: Invasive thymoma: the role of mediastinal irradiation following complete or incomplete surgical resection. J Clin Oncol 6 (11): 1722-7, 1988.
    8. Kondo K, Monden Y: Therapy for thymic epithelial tumors: a clinical study of 1,320 patients from Japan. Ann Thorac Surg 76 (3): 878-84; discussion 884-5, 2003.
    9. Mangi AA, Wright CD, Allan JS, et al.: Adjuvant radiation therapy for stage II thymoma. Ann Thorac Surg 74 (4): 1033-7, 2002.
    10. Singhal S, Shrager JB, Rosenthal DI, et al.: Comparison of stages I-II thymoma treated by complete resection with or without adjuvant radiation. Ann Thorac Surg 76 (5): 1635-41; discussion 1641-2, 2003.
    11. Thomas CR, Wright CD, Loehrer PJ: Thymoma: state of the art. J Clin Oncol 17 (7): 2280-9, 1999.
    12. Berman AT, Litzky L, Livolsi V, et al.: Adjuvant radiotherapy for completely resected stage 2 thymoma. Cancer 117 (15): 3502-8, 2011.
    13. Macchiarini P, Chella A, Ducci F, et al.: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, surgery, and postoperative radiation therapy for invasive thymoma. Cancer 68 (4): 706-13, 1991.
    14. Berruti A, Borasio P, Gerbino A, et al.: Primary chemotherapy with adriamycin, cisplatin, vincristine and cyclophosphamide in locally advanced thymomas: a single institution experience. Br J Cancer 81 (5): 841-5, 1999.
    15. Rea F, Sartori F, Loy M, et al.: Chemotherapy and operation for invasive thymoma. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 106 (3): 543-9, 1993.
    16. Shin DM, Walsh GL, Komaki R, et al.: A multidisciplinary approach to therapy for unresectable malignant thymoma. Ann Intern Med 129 (2): 100-4, 1998.
    17. Kim ES, Putnam JB, Komaki R, et al.: Phase II study of a multidisciplinary approach with induction chemotherapy, followed by surgical resection, radiation therapy, and consolidation chemotherapy for unresectable malignant thymomas: final report. Lung Cancer 44 (3): 369-79, 2004.
    18. Loehrer PJ Sr, Chen M, Kim K, et al.: Cisplatin, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide plus thoracic radiation therapy for limited-stage unresectable thymoma: an intergroup trial. J Clin Oncol 15 (9): 3093-9, 1997.
    19. Loehrer PJ Sr, Kim K, Aisner SC, et al.: Cisplatin plus doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide in metastatic or recurrent thymoma: final results of an intergroup trial. The Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, Southwest Oncology Group, and Southeastern Cancer Study Group. J Clin Oncol 12 (6): 1164-8, 1994.
    20. Fernandes AT, Shinohara ET, Guo M, et al.: The role of radiation therapy in malignant thymoma: a Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database analysis. J Thorac Oncol 5 (9): 1454-60, 2010.
    21. Yokoi K, Matsuguma H, Nakahara R, et al.: Multidisciplinary treatment for advanced invasive thymoma with cisplatin, doxorubicin, and methylprednisolone. J Thorac Oncol 2 (1): 73-8, 2007.
    22. Lucchi M, Melfi F, Dini P, et al.: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for stage III and IVA thymomas: a single-institution experience with a long follow-up. J Thorac Oncol 1 (4): 308-13, 2006.
    23. Yagi K, Hirata T, Fukuse T, et al.: Surgical treatment for invasive thymoma, especially when the superior vena cava is invaded. Ann Thorac Surg 61 (2): 521-4, 1996.
    24. Akaogi E, Ohara K, Mitsui K, et al.: Preoperative radiotherapy and surgery for advanced thymoma with invasion to the great vessels. J Surg Oncol 63 (1): 17-22, 1996.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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