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Thyroid Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgery.
  2. Radiation therapy.
  3. Chemotherapy.


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Tracheostomy is frequently necessary. If the disease is confined to the local area, which is rare, total thyroidectomy is warranted to reduce symptoms caused by the tumor mass.[1,2]

Radiation Therapy

External-beam radiation therapy may be used in patients who are not surgical candidates or whose tumor cannot be surgically excised.


Anaplastic thyroid cancer is not responsive to I131 therapy; treatment with individual anticancer drugs has been reported to produce partial remissions in some patients. Approximately 30% of patients achieve a partial remission with doxorubicin.[3] The combination of doxorubicin plus cisplatin appears to be more active than doxorubicin alone and has been reported to produce more complete responses.[4]

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

  • The combination of chemotherapy plus radiation therapy in patients following complete resection may provide prolonged survival but has not been compared with any one modality alone.[5,6]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer. 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.


  1. Goldman JM, Goren EN, Cohen MH, et al.: Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: long-term survival after radical surgery. J Surg Oncol 14 (4): 389-94, 1980.
  2. Aldinger KA, Samaan NA, Ibanez M, et al.: Anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid: a review of 84 cases of spindle and giant cell carcinoma of the thyroid. Cancer 41 (6): 2267-75, 1978.
  3. Carling T, Udelsman R: Thyroid tumors. In: DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, pp 1457-72.
  4. Shimaoka K, Schoenfeld DA, DeWys WD, et al.: A randomized trial of doxorubicin versus doxorubicin plus cisplatin in patients with advanced thyroid carcinoma. Cancer 56 (9): 2155-60, 1985.
  5. Haigh PI, Ituarte PH, Wu HS, et al.: Completely resected anaplastic thyroid carcinoma combined with adjuvant chemotherapy and irradiation is associated with prolonged survival. Cancer 91 (12): 2335-42, 2001.
  6. De Crevoisier R, Baudin E, Bachelot A, et al.: Combined treatment of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma with surgery, chemotherapy, and hyperfractionated accelerated external radiotherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 60 (4): 1137-43, 2004.

    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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