Rationale for therapeutic decision-making in locally advanced and metastatic radioactive iodine (RAI)-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer, starting from a clinical case

Cristina Alina Silaghi, Oana Stãnoiu-Pînzariu, Horaţiu Silaghi, Doina Piciu, Carmen Emanuela Georgescu


Iodine uptake and organification are the hallmarks of thyroid cells differentiation. The loss of these characteristics in thyroid cancer leads to radioactive iodine refractoriness, a rare condition that bears a low survival rate and poor prognosis. We present a 52-year-old patient presenting dry cough and dyspnea in the supine position. Imaging examinations revealed a thyroid nodule with a high suspicion of malignancy in the right thyroid lobe, multiple laterocervical and mediastinal lymph nodes, lung, bone, and brain metastases. Fine needle aspiration cytologic features have advocated for papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). The patient underwent total thyroidectomy and selective lymphadenectomy. Subsequently, the patient received suppressive treatment with levothyroxine and four courses of radioactive iodine therapy. In addition, to treat bone and brain metastases, the patient experienced external radiotherapy and glucocorticoid therapy. Despite this rigorous therapeutic management, the patient obtained an incomplete structural and functional response. Although the last two posttherapeutic 131I whole-body scans were negative, the patient had elevated stimulated thyroglobulin levels and loco-regional recurrence by thyroid ultrasound. This aspect would suggest that thyroid cells become unable to uptake 131I, most likely through the emergence of new genetic mutations in the cancer cells. In conclusion, our patient's case suggests a 131I-refractory PTC, requiring the initiation of novel targeted systemic agents such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors, in order to improve structural and functional outcomes of radioactive iodine therapy and to afford prolonged progression-free survival advantage.


papillary thyroid cancer; radioactive iodine-refractory; differentiated thyroid cancer; sodium/iodide symporter; tyrosine kinase inhibitor; brain metastasis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22551/2021.33.0804.10190

Copyright (c) 2021 Cristina Alina Silaghi, Oana Stãnoiu-Pînzariu, Horaţiu Silaghi, Doina Piciu, Carmen Emanuela Georgescu

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