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Almudena’s Story:  A Life of Hope, Rejuvenation and Strength

Author: Gail S. Thornton, M.A.

Co-Editor: The VOICES of Patients, HealthCare Providers, Caregivers and Families: Personal Experience with Critical Care and Invasive Medical Procedures

Patient had ovarian clear cell adenocarcinomas (OCCAs) and underwent a complete hysterectomy at age 52. Interview was conducted 15 months’ post-surgery. Earlier in life, patient had thyroid cancer and removal of her thyroid gland and all the lymph nodes in her neck.

 

Almudena Seeder-Alonso, originally from Madrid, Spain, and now living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with her Dutch husband, René, is the eternal optimist, embracing life, reinventing herself, and looking for opportunity in every moment. She is an influential blogger of international relations issues, a career professional in human resources management in both corporate and consulting businesses in Legal, Accounting and Technology, and a lawyer and political scientist with an advanced degree in international relations who is also pursuing a Ph.D. in international relations and diplomacy. And she speaks four languages fluently – Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and English.

Her story is one of hope, rejuvenation and strength that defines her effervescent personality. One year ago, a routine gynecology exam changed her outlook and perspective on life. She would have never thought that her diagnosis would be ovarian carcinoma of the clear cell, the most aggressive form of cancer.

 

Image SOURCE: Photographs courtesy of Almudena Seeder-Alonso. Top Left: Almudena’s parents, María and Angel, and sister, Cristina, and her husband. Top Right: Almudena during chemotherapy last summer (2015). Middle: Almudena attending a wedding in Asturias (northwest Spain – May 2016), Almudena and René in Comporta, Portugal (Summer 2014) and in New York (April 2014). Below left: Almudena in New York (April 2014). Below Right: Almudena’s sisters, María and Cristina with nephew, Jaime (May 2016). 

A Small Cyst Turns Into Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

In early 2015, Almudena visited her gynecologist in Amsterdam for a regular, yearly appointment.

“I was feeling fine. I had no physical complaints, except for my monthly periods which were heavy. I didn’t think much about it. During my examination, my doctor told me that she found a small cyst on my right ovary and we would just observe it to make sure it was not growing.”

Almudena went back to her gynecologist at the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouw Gasthuis https://www.olvg.nl/) in Amsterdam twice over the next month to monitor the cyst, only to find that the cyst was growing slightly. Her gynecologist recommended blood tests, an ultrasound, and a specimen of the cyst to be removed through a laparoscopy, a procedure requiring small incisions made below the navel using specialized tools.

“The pathology report said that the cyst was an aggressive cancer, called ovarian carcinoma of the clear cell. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office once she told me the results of the test, and I got very quiet. I could not believe that this was happening to me. While I was meeting with the doctor, I called my husband to let the doctor inform him about the situation. I was listening to this conversation but from far away. He immediately left his meeting with his client (he is one of two founding partners of SeederdeBoer, a Dutch Consulting & Technology firm), to come home. I left the doctor’s office, went home and cried in my husband’s arms.”

Almudena then called her parents, María and Angel, and her two sisters, María and Cristina who live in Madrid, to tell them the news.

“My Mother was very emotional when she heard about my diagnosis. My Father, who is a quiet man by nature, asked me, ‘How could this be happening to you again?’ I did not have an answer for him.”

Almudena’s father was referring to his daughter’s diagnosis of thyroid cancer in her late 20s.

Diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer As A Young Woman

When Almudena was 27 years old, she was diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer, a slow-growing, highly treatable type of cancer that forms in follicular cells in the thyroid gland. After a 12-hour surgery to remove the gland through a procedure called a full thyroidectomy, she also needed radiation therapy. Many years later, she is feeling fine and continues to be on thyroid medication for the rest of her life.

“I was not aware at that young age of the scope of the diagnosis, but my life really changed. I was kind of a party animal at the end of the 1980s, and I did not have any amount of energy for that anymore. I needed several months to get back into shape as the scar from the surgery was a large one on the right side of my neck. I could not use my right arm and hand properly for months, even writing was complicated. The worst news came later when I could not get pregnant given the situation that many of my eggs were gone because of radiation. At that moment, egg freezing technology was not as advanced as it is today; it was not normal to freeze eggs for a later time. That was really painful, as I could not become a mother, even after four in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles.”

According to the National Cancer Institute’s web site, thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a gland at the base of the throat near the trachea (windpipe). It is shaped like a butterfly, with a right lobe and a left lobe. The isthmus, a thin piece of tissue, connects the two lobes. A healthy thyroid is a little larger than a quarter coin. It usually cannot be felt through the skin. The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to help make several hormones. Thyroid hormones control heart rate, body temperature, and how quickly food is changed into energy (metabolism) as well as, it controls the amount of calcium in the blood.  http://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis Continues

Almudena then spoke with her physicians in Madrid, as that is where she grew up, to get a second opinion about her ovarian carcinoma diagnosis. The physicians knew her history well and they told her that they did not believe that the follicular thyroid cancer was directly related to the ovarian cancer.

“My local gynecologist in Amsterdam then referred me to a specialist, Dr. J. van der Velden, a gynecologist/oncologist at the Amsterdam Medisch Centrum (AMC), http://www.cgoa.nl/page/view/name/34-wie-we-zijn, one of the top university hospitals in The Netherlands for this surgery and treatment. My husband, René, and I met with Dr. van der Velden, and he told us that my cancer was a fast-spreading condition and I needed to have it removed immediately. He answered our questions, calmed my fears and said he would do everything to help me.

“I have an open attitude towards people so it was easy to create a good connection with the doctors and medical personnel, which I consider very fundamental in such a process. I talked to them about my concerns or doubts and shared my worries about the process that I was going through. I have to say that all of them were wonderful in every aspect!”

Dr. van der Velden explained to Almudena that as clear cell is an aggressive form of ovarian cancer, it would need to be treated that way. One month later, Almudena underwent a procedure called open surgery, rather than laparoscopic surgery, requiring an incision large enough for the doctor to see the cyst and surrounding tissue.

“My incision from the surgery is a constant reminder of the struggle I went through. The cyst, which was 3cm, was a solid mass on my right ovary. It had adhered itself to the ovary and had to be broken to be removed, so some cells spilled out into my reproductive organs, namely, in my uterus and fallopian tubes. During this surgery, which was a complete hysterectomy, the doctor took additional tissue samples of my reproductive organs to be analyzed by pathology. Weeks later, he found no other metastases or extra cancer cells.”

http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/treatments-and-procedures/ovarian-cyst-removal-open-surgery

https://www.amc.nl/web/Het-AMC/Organisatie/Academisch-Medisch-Centrum.htm

The Process of Healing Begins

One month later, Almudena’s body was still recovering from the operation. Now, she had to start chemotherapy back at the OLVG.

“The doctor, Dr. W. Terpstra, hematologist/oncologist instructed me that I would be going through six full cycles of chemotherapy, which means full doses of carboplatin & paclitaxel every 21 days. At first, I felt reasonably good, then as each week progressed, I became more and more tired, nauseous, and just feeling terrible. I was not sleeping well and even lost the sensation of my fingers and toes as chemo attacks the nerves, too. Then, I started losing my eyelashes and hair so I shaved my long, flowing hair and wore a scarf wrapped around my head.”

Almudena would report to the hospital for her weekly chemotherapy session, starting at 9am and leaving at 6pm. The medical team would put her in a room with a full-size bed so she can relax during the infusion. Her husband, two sisters and some close friends would take turns accompanying her during this time, as she had a nurturing and caring support network.

“I could not have gone through this condition without my family and friends. It tests your relationships and shows you who your friends really are.”

The chemotherapy affected Almudena’s red blood cell count halfway through the process and she felt weak and tired.

“Anemia is normal during this time, but always being tired made me concentrate and focus on things less. I would watch a movie or read a book through the chemo session, and then I would fall asleep quickly.”

After Almudena finished the complete cycle of chemotherapy infusions, she had a follow-up appointment with her doctor, which included blood work, CT scan, and other diagnostic tests.

“My doctor said the tests results were very good. Now, I see him every three months for a routine visit. That was such a wonderful report to hear.

“During this process I learned to love myself, and pampered myself and my body. I learned to improve in terms of beauty, even in the worst circumstances. I wanted to feel beautiful and attractive for myself and for my close family. After three chemo cycles, I started even to think about how my new hair style would be in the moment that I finished chemo.”

Ovarian Carcinoma Pathophysiology Facts

According to published studies, ovarian clear cell adenocarcinomas (OCCAs) account for less than 5 percent of all ovarian malignancies, and 3.7–12.1 percent of all epithelial ovarian carcinomas. By contrast, early‐stage clear cell ovarian cancer carries a relatively good prognosis. When compared with their serous counterparts, a greater proportion of OCCA tumors present as early‐stage (I–II) tumors, are often associated with a large pelvic mass, which may account for their earlier diagnosis, and rarely occur bilaterally. Very little is known about the pathobiology of OCCA. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of ovarian cancers are associated with endometriotic lesions in which there is a predominance of clear and endometrioid cell subtypes, suggesting that both tumor types may arise in endometriosis. http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/hp/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq

The National Cancer Institute’s web site offers these statistics. In most families affected with the breast and ovarian cancer syndrome or site-specific ovarian cancer, genetic linkage has been found to the BRCA1 locus on chromosome 17q21. BRCA2, also responsible for some instances of inherited ovarian and breast cancer, has been mapped by genetic linkage to chromosome 13q12. The lifetime risk for developing ovarian cancer in patients harboring germline mutations in BRCA1 is substantially increased over that of the general population. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2001101/

Words Of Wisdom

“Throughout this journey, I found myself again in some way and found my strength as well. When it seemed I could not stand it anymore, either physically and mentally, I realized that I could.

“At the beginning of my diagnosis, I asked myself, ‘Why me?’, and I then changed it to, ‘Why not me?’ I discovered that I have the same opportunities as anyone who becomes ill. The important perspective to have is not whining and dwelling on my bad luck. The important thing is to heal, survive, and recover my life, which is very good!

“I learned the real value and importance of things: to differentiate and give real meaning and value to the care and support of my husband, René, who was always there for me, and my parents and sisters, who came to Amsterdam very often during the process. I also made sure that René was well-supported and accompanied by my family.  René was feeling terrible for me, but he never showed it — and I learned this fact after I was starting to be back on track.”

Almudena’s Life Today

“At a significant moment in my life during my cancer diagnosis and after a long professional life in many corporate and consulting business in several countries, I decided to re-invent myself and start a new career, this time, in the battle of the opinions. I always liked foreign affairs and diplomacy, so why not share my thoughts and write about current international issues.”

That’s when Almudena started a blog to discuss relevant international political issues with her background specialization in International Relations, International Politics, International Law and Governance.

“I consider myself politically liberal and have been influenced by J.S. Mill and A. Tocqueville’s tradition of thought, as well as their ethical conception of the defense of freedom. This is what I try to capture in my political approach and in this blog. http://almudenas.website/index.php/about-me/

“Regarding my profession, I have already reinvented myself, leaving the corporate life with all that is included regarding life’s standards, and do what really makes me happy, which I´m doing right now. It seems after all, looking back with perspective, I did the right thing.

“I am grateful for my life and never take anything for granted. I am the happiest when I am doing things that please me or give me the utmost satisfaction. I now have balance in my personal and professional life, something that I’ve never had before. My husband, René, likes it too and I have his full support.”

She recently ‘liked’ this saying on LinkedIn, the professional network site, ‘I never lose. I either win or learn,’ which was attributed to Nelson Mandela, the deceased South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist.

Almudena’s life continues on a path of balance, richness and thankfulness for the person she is and the many blessings she continues to have along the way.

Editor’s note:

We would like to thank Gabriela Contreras, a global communications consultant and patient advocate, for the tremendous help and support she provided in locating and scheduling time to talk with Almudena Seeder-Alonso.

Almudena Seeder-Alonso provided her permission to publish this interview on August 10, 2016.

REFERENCES/SOURCES

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/health/harnessing-the-immune-system-to-fight-cancer.html?_r=0

http://www.sharecancersupport.org/share-new/support/stories/linda_clear_cell_ovarian_cancer/

http://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thyroid-treatment-pdq

http://almudenas.website/index.php/about-me/

http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/hp/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq

http://www.cgoa.nl/page/view/name/34-wie-we-zijn

http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/treatments-and-procedures/ovarian-cyst-removal-open-surgery

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2001101/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2001101/

Other related articles on the link between Ovarian Cancer and Thyroid Cancer:

https://www.whatnext.com/questions/is-there-a-link-between-ovarian-and-thyroid-cancer

Other related articles/information:

https://www.olvg.nl/

https://www.amc.nl/web/Het-AMC/Organisatie/Academisch-Medisch-Centrum.htm

 

Other related articles on Ovarian Cancer and Thyroid Cancer were published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following: 

Ovarian Cancer (N = 285)

2015

A Curated History of the Science Behind the Ovarian Cancer β-Blocker Trial

Model mimicking clinical profile of patients with ovarian cancer @ Yale School of Medicine

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/09/26/model-mimicking-clinical-profile-of-patients-with-ovarian-cancer-yale-school-of-medicine/

2014

Preclinical study identifies ‘master’ proto-oncogene that regulates stress-induced ovarian cancer metastasis | MD Anderson Cancer Center

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/08/15/preclinical-study-identifies-master-proto-oncogene-that-regulates-stress-induced-ovarian-cancer-metastasis-md-anderson-cancer-center/

Good and Bad News Reported for Ovarian Cancer Therapy

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/07/01/good-and-bad-news-reported-for-ovarian-cancer-therapy-2/

Efficacy of Ovariectomy in Presence of BRCA1 vs BRCA2 and the Risk for Ovarian Cancer

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/02/25/efficacy-of-ovariectomy-in-presence-of-brca1-vs-brca2-and-the-risk-for-ovarian-cancer/

 

And 
 
Thyroid Cancer (N = 124)
2015
Experience with Thyroid Cancer

 

2012

Thyroid Cancer: The Evolution of Treatment Options

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/08/19/thyroid-cancer-the-evolution-of-treatment-options/

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Experience with Thyroid Cancer

Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

 

 

I retired from my position as pathologist in charge of clinical laboratories after five years at New York Methodist Hospital, with great satisfaction in mentoring students from the high schools and university undergraduate programs nearby interested in science.  I was fortunate to experience the Brooklyn “cityscape” and vibrance, and to work with other physician educators in surgery and cardiology and pulmonary medicine. Most of my students participated in presenting papers at professional meetings, and some coauthored published work.  But I was about to enter a new phase of life.  I returned to my home in Connecticut and immediately accepted a temporary position for less than a year as the Blood Bank – Transfusion Medicine Director at Norwalk Hospital, which also afforded the opportunity to help with the installation of an automated hematology system, and to help in the quality monitoring in Chemistry.  It was a good reprieve from the anxiety of having nothing to do after an intense professional  career.  When that ended I went to Yale University Department of Mathematics  and found a collaborative project with a brilliant postdoc and his mentor, Professor and Emeritus Chairman Ronald Coifman.  A colleague of mine many years ago had done a project with the automated hematology, but it was too early for a good interpretive hemogram.  I had sufficient data in 8,000 lines of data containing all of the important information.  We managed to develop an algorithm in over a year that would interpret the data and provide a list of probabilities for the physician, and we used part of the data set for creating the algorithm and another set for validation.   In the meantime I also became engaged in twice weekly sessions in Yoga, Pilates, and massage therapy, and did some swimming.  I also participated in discussions with a group of retired men up to 20 years senior to me. I also did two rounds of walking around the condonium that was home to my wife and I.

 

Then I noticed that I became weak and short of breath in walking around the condominium streets and had to stop and hold a tree or streetlamp.  I was long-term diabetic and was followed by a pulmonologist for sleep apnea for some five years.  This was an insidious health presentation, as I had had good pulmonary and cardiac status at that point in time.  Then an “aha!” moment occurred when my laboratory results showed a high level of thyroid stimulating hormone.  It was one of a rare instances of hyperparathyroidism occurring with a thyroid tumor.

I then had radiological testing of the head and neck, which led to a thyroid biopsy.  I then chose to referral to Yale University Health Sciences Center, where there was an excellent endocrinologist, and it was a leading center for head and neck surgery.  All of this took many trips, much testing, biopsies of thyroid and its removal.  There also were 3 proximate lymph nodes.  In undergoing the tests the technicians said that they had never had a patient like me because of my questions and comments.  It was a papillary thyroid cancer involving the center and right lobe, with a characteristic appearance and identified by a histologically stained biomarker that I reviewed with my longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Marguerite Pinto.  The surgery and followup went well.

 

However, I developed  double-vision (diplopia) and was referent to one of a handful of neuro-ophthalmologists in Connecticut.  Perhaps related to the hyperthyroid condition, I had developed an anti-thyroid antibody that disturbed the lower muscle that moves the right eye.  This required many test over months, and my wearing a special attachable lens gradient to equalize the vision in both eyes.  The next requirement was to watch and wait. It could be corrected by surgery if it remained after a year.  Nevertheless, it subsided over a period of perhaps 9 months and I removed the attachment with sufficient return of my previous sight.

In the meantime I was writing a lot over this period, and I also began to watch MSNBC and Turner Classic Movies on a regular basis and found relief.  I’m not a “laugher” and have had a long-term anxiety state.  I enjoyed watching the magic of Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Lassie, and whatever caught my fancy.

My daughter was accepted for a tenure earning faculty position competing against a large field of candidates for an Assistant Professorship at Holyoke Community College in Western Massachusetts. Her husband had invested 15 years as a Navy physician and neurologist, having graduated from the Armed Services Medical School in Bethesda, and given this opportunity, decided to forgo further service  would pay for their child’s future college education.  He is very bright, knowledgable, and a blessing for a son-in-law.  We went through the sale of our house and the search for a living arrangement near our daughter, all while I was going through my therapy.  It was undoubtedly the best thing to moving near the daughter.

The move became an enormous challenge.  It took time to sell the condominium, which was  desirable in  a difficult market.  I became engaged in trashing what I need not save, but I had to review hundreds of published work, unpublished papers, saved publications, and hundreds of photographs large and small, that I had kept over many years.  I had to dispense of my darkroom equipment, and we managed to give much away.  It was very engaging.  It was impossible to be overwhelmed, but also tiring over the long haul.

Prior to moving, my wife had trouble swallowing, and she was subsequently found to have an esophageal carcinoma at 20 cm, and invading the submucosa.  We made arrangement for treatment by Massachusetts General Hospital, which could be done at its cancer affiliate in Northampton, MA.  The move was made, and we have temporary residence in a townhouse in Northampton, woon to move to an adult living facility.  My wife is lucky enough to have a squamous cell carcinoma, not adenocarcinoma.  Her treatment needed careful adjustments.  She decided to live it out whatever the outcome.  However, she has done well.  She maintained her weight, underwent radiation and chemotherapy, which is finished, and is returning to eating more than soft food and protein shakes. She has enjoyed being a grandmother to an incredible kid in kindergarten only a block away, and engaged in reading and all sorts of puzzles and games.

My own health has seen a decline in ease of motion. I am starting physical therapy and also pulmonary therapy for my asthma.  Having a grandson is both a pleasure and an education. Being a grandparent, one is relieved of the responsibility of being a parent.

In following my wife’s serious illness, which precluded surgery, we have had phone calls from her sister daily, weekend visits nonstop, and more to come.  She has been very satisfied with the quality of care.
My triplet sister calls often for both of us.  We also call my 95 year old aunt, who is my mother’s sister.  My mother’s younger brother enjoyed life, left Hungary as a medical student in 1941 and became an insurance salesman in Cleveland. He lived to 99 years old.  He outlived 3 wives, all friends of my mother.
His daughter has called me for a medical second opinion for a good fifteen years.  She was a very rare patient who had a pituitary growth hormone secreting adenocarcinoma (Addison’s Disease) for which she had two surgeries, and regularly visits the Cleveland Clinic and the Jewish Hospital of Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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New Guidelines and Meeting Information on Advanced Thyroid Cancer as Reported by Cancer Network (Meeting Highlights)

 

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Cancer Network presents exclusive coverage on thyroid cancer from the 15th International Thyroid Congress (ITC) and 85th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA), held October 18-23 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Vista, Florida.
Conference Reports
ATA Updates Guidelines for Differentiated Thyroid Cancers
Release of newly revised, evidence-based clinical management guidelines for thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancers were announced at the 85th Annual Meeting of the ATA.
FAM83F Protein Implicated in Papillary Thyroid Cancer and Drug Resistance
The FAM83F protein contributes to papillary thyroid cancer cell viability and doxorubicin resistance, according to a study presented at the 85th Annual Meeting of the ATA.
Autophagy Implicated in Vemurafenib Resistance in BRAF-Mutant Thyroid Cancer
Preclinical findings suggest that autophagy inhibition might prove useful in overcoming BRAF-mutant thyroid cancers resistant to vemurafenib.

 

Summary of Newly Released Guidelines on Management of Thyroid Nodules and Differentiated Thyroid Cancers

See Cancer.gov for more information on thyroid cancer

Release of newly revised, evidence-based clinical management guidelines for thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancers were announced at the 15th International Thyroid Congress (ITC) and 85th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and published in Thyroid.

  • The ATA Guidelines Taskforce on Thyroid Nodules and Differentiated Thyroid Cancer authored the guidelines. The Taskforce was chaired by Bryan R. Haugen, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado.

The updated guidelines reflect

  • advances in the interpretation of biopsy and the use of molecular-marker studies in the clinical differentiation of benign thyroid nodules from thyroid cancer,
  • risk assessment,
  • cancer screening,
  • the management of benign thyroid nodules,
  • the diagnosis and the initial and long-term management of differentiated thyroid cancer.
  • Guidelines modified for long-term management of differentiated thyroid cancer
  • additional research and recommendations needed “for clinical trials and targeted therapy.”

The United States saw an estimated 63,000 newly diagnosed cases of thyroid cancer cases in 2014, up sharply from 37,200 in 2009, when the ATA guidelines were last revised.

– See more at: http://www.cancernetwork.com/ata-2015-thyroid-cancer/ata-updates-guidelines-differentiated-thyroid-cancers?GUID=D63BFB74-A7FD-4892-846F-A7D1FFE0F131&XGUID=&rememberme=1&ts=20102015#sthash.yXbBrS2x.dpuf

 

 

 

Vemurafenib

From 2011 FDA press release on approval of vemurafenib:

FDA NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Aug. 17, 2011
Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988, erica.jefferson@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA approves Zelboraf and companion diagnostic test for late-stage skin cancer
Second melanoma drug approved this year that improves overall survival

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Zelboraf (vemurafenib), a drug to treat patients with late-stage (metastatic) or unresectable (cannot be removed by surgery) melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

Zelboraf is specifically indicated for the treatment of patients with melanoma whose tumors express a gene mutation called BRAF V600E. The drug has not been studied in patients whose melanoma tests negative for that mutation by an FDA approved diagnostic.

Zelboraf is being approved with a first-of-a-kind test called the cobas 4800 BRAF V600 Mutation Test, a companion diagnostic that will help determine if a patient’s melanoma cells have the BRAF V600E mutation.

The BRAF protein is normally involved in regulating cell growth, but is mutated in about half of the patients with late-stage melanomas. Zelboraf is a BRAF inhibitor that is able to block the function of the V600E-mutated BRAF protein.

“This has been an important year for patients with late-stage melanoma. Zelboraf is the second new cancer drug approved that demonstrates an improvement in overall survival,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In March, we approved Yervoy (ipilimumab), another new treatment for late-stage melanoma that also showed patients live longer after receiving the drug.”

Zelboraf was reviewed under the FDA’s priority review program that provides for an expedited six-month review of drugs that may offer major advances in treatment or that provide a treatment when no adequate therapy exists. Zelboraf and the companion BRAF V600E test are being approved ahead of the drug’s Oct. 28, 2011 goal date and the companion diagnostics’ Nov. 12, 2011 goal date.

Zelboraf’s safety and effectiveness were established in a single international trial of 675 patients with late-stage melanoma with the BRAF V600E mutation who had not received prior therapy. Patients were assigned to receive either Zelboraf or dacarbazine, another anti-cancer therapy. The trial was designed to measure overall survival (the length of time between start of treatment and death of a patient).

The median survival (the length of time a patient lives after treatment) of patients receiving Zelboraf has not been reached (77 percent still living) while the median survival for those who received dacarbazine was 8 months (64 percent still living).

“Today’s approval of Zelboraf and the cobas test is a great example of how companion diagnostics can be developed and used to ensure patients are exposed to highly effective, more personalized therapies in a safe manner,” said Alberto Gutierrez, Ph.D., director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The FDA’s approval of the cobas 4800 BRAF V600 Mutation Test was based on data from the clinical study that also evaluated the safety and effectiveness of Zelboraf. Samples of a patient’s melanoma tissue were collected to test for the mutation.

The most common side effects reported in patients receiving Zelboraf included joint pain, rash, hair loss, fatigue, nausea, and skin sensitivity when exposed to the sun. About 26 percent of patients developed a skin-related cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, which was managed with surgery. Patients treated with Zelboraf should avoid sun exposure.

Zelboraf is being approved with a Medication Guide to inform health care professionals and patients of Zelboraf’s potential risks.

In July 2011, the FDA issued a new draft guidance to facilitate the development and review of companion diagnostics. The guidance, currently available for public comment, is intended to provide companies with guidance on the agency’s policy for reviewing a companion diagnostic and the corresponding drug therapy.

Melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin disease. The National Cancer Institute estimated that 68,130 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States during 2010; about 8,700 people died from the disease.

Zelboraf is marketed by South San Francisco based-Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. The cobas 4800 BRAF V600 Mutation Test is manufactured by Roche Molecular Systems in Pleasanton, Calif.

 

More Articles in this Open Access Journal on Thyroid Cancer Include

 

The Experience of a Patient with Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer: The Evolution of Treatment Options

The Relation between Coagulation and Cancer affects Supportive Treatments

 

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Examples of Surgical Procedures [4.4]

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

It is not possible to discuss surgical procedures without a firsthand knowledge of the principles of surgical, radiation and medical oncology and the current interdisciplinary approach to the care of the patient with cancer with respect to the type of cancer, the stage, the patient health status, the preoperative preparation, the assessment of treatment for cure or of palliation, and the postoperative plan for management of the patient.

Cancer surgery has evolved over the decades from a radical ‘one size fits all’ approach to a patient-specific, cancer-specific direction, which means that surgeons rely on their multidisciplinary partners in the assessment of patients. As surgeons are frequently the first specialists involved with most solid tumors, familiarity with pre-operative imaging, pathological biopsy and patient-selection, careful surgical technique and staging are fundamental to the surgeon’s armamentarium.

Surgical resection of cancers remains the cornerstone of treatment for many types of cancers. Historically, surgery was the only effective form of cancer treatment, but developments in radiation therapy and chemotherapy have demanded that surgeons work with the other disciplines of medicine in order to achieve best results for the patient with cancer.

This type of interaction between the medical disciplines together with the supportive care groups required by cancer patients is defined as multidisciplinary care. It is now widely recognized that for optimal treatment of cancer a multidisciplinary team with the surgeon as part of this team is essential.

Surgery is effective treatment for cancer if the disease is localized. Defining the extent of the cancer before surgery has become much more accurate with modern imaging methods including computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET) scanning and high resolution ultrasound. The exploratory operation to determine the extent of disease, or attempting a ‘curative’ resection when the disease has already spread beyond the bounds of a ‘surgical’ cure, is not part of the modern surgical treatment of cancer. Oncological trained surgeons are now distinguished from more general surgeons because of the particular needs of the cancer patients.

Clinical trials are required to evaluate new treatments and treatment combinations. The struggle against the scourge of cancer has seen an explosion in basic research directed towards cancer. This academic element to cancer care is a constant feature as all those involved in cancer care endeavor to advance the understanding of the management of cancer patients.

Three main questions to consider are implied from the preceding:

What is the type of cancer?

In most cases, this requires a tissue diagnosis. In modern oncology, it is unusual or inappropriate to start treatment based on clinical diagnosis alone without tissue diagnosis. Tissue diagnosis is also important to perform molecular studies to select appropriate targeted therapies.

What is the extent of the spread of the cancer?

This is answered by staging scans including CT scans, bone scans and PET scans.

Is it curable or not curable?

This depends on the type of cancer and the presence or absence of and the extent of metastasis.

For curable cancers, rate of cure is determined by prognostic factors (for example: tumor size and nodal status in breast cancer).

For incurable cancers, duration of survival is expressed in median survival rather than in absolute time frame.

Most solid tumors require adequate and site-specific imaging. This facilitates diagnosis and staging of the primary tumor and staging for distal metastases. Not all modalities are appropriate for all sites. For example mammography using the BIRADS system and ultrasound are used in breast cancers to assess a primary breast cancer. Meanwhile, an esophageal cancer requires a CT and a low rectal cancer will be best assessed with MRI or endorectal ultrasound, while a thyroid cancer is best evaluated with neck ultrasound.

One of the biggest challenges for the surgeon is to choose the correct surgery for the correct patient and with the tumor type and biology in mind. Although surgery removes a tumor and provides further pathological information to estimate prognosis and influence adjuvant therapies, the surgery cannot cause more morbidity than the cancer and must achieve surgical goals without compromising tumor biology.

The TNM staging system (American Joint Commission on Cancer AJCC) is devised for cancers to allow an assessment of T- tumor, N- nodal metastases and M- distal metastases. The goal of having a site-specific staging system is to estimate prognosis, facilitate treatment planning including the sequence of treatments and allow comparisons of treatment for different stages. Generally, a combination of different ‘T’, ‘N’, and ‘M’ allows the cancer to be grouped into stages. Stages I-IV usually depict a tumor in the following state: Stage 1- early and superficial cancer, Stage 2- locally advanced, Stage 3- regionally advanced with lymph node metastases and Stage 4- distant metastatic disease.

Despite suggestive imaging, a cancer is not diagnosed until histopathological biopsy. Biopsies where tissue (as opposed to cells) are provided to the pathologist increase the accuracy of the pre-operative diagnosis but may not always be feasible. Biopsies may be undertaken percutaneously — for example, a core biopsy of the breast, fine needle aspiration of thyroid or endoscopically such as in gastric cancer or colon cancer.

A biopsy should confirm the tumor type, grade, may show lymphovascular invasion and in some cases, special immunohistochemical stains may be performed to assess hormone receptor status such as in breast cancer or flow cytometry may be performed to assess subtypes such as in lymphoma. Staging may also require a biopsy of draining lymph nodes.

The aims of any cancer surgery are to remove the cancer with an adequate margin of normal tissue with minimal morbidity. Clear margins have an impact on local control.  Many solid tumors require removal of the draining lymph nodes for the purpose of staging and/or to achieve local control. Surgery has become more conservative with the advent of sentinel node biopsy, and is frequently used in breast cancer and melanoma. The sentinel node biopsy is a  staging tool to predict prognosis and influence use of adjuvant therapies. Surgery is performed for cure by removing the primary cancer and lymph nodes.

When tumors are locally advanced, a neoadjuvant approach with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or targeted therapies may be important to ‘control’ the growth of a tumor, down-stage a tumor to render it operable, or because the impact of systemic disease risk may outweigh those of local control. Similarly, patients with metastatic disease may still require surgery to prevent complications of the primary tumor, such as bowel obstruction from a colon cancer.

The preceding paragraphs define the discipline of surgical oncology. In summary, surgical oncology is the involvement of a specialty trained surgeon as part of a multidisciplinary team program, the use of appropriate surgery in an adequately staged patient and the involvement of the surgeon in academic programs particularly involved with clinical trials.

The use of effective techniques in the operating theater, the careful management of the patient undergoing surgery and supportive post-operative care are similar requirements to those of all other disciplines of surgery.

Communication with the patient and family, the obtaining of informed consent and the careful honest, realistic but where possible optimistic explanation of the results of surgery, are all matters of high importance to all surgical practice. However, the ability to talk sympathetically to cancer patients and their family is particularly important in the field of surgical oncology.

Multidisciplinary care

Surgeons need to understand the principles and practical consequences of the treatment offered by radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and the paramedical disciplines in order to be able to work in a team to treat cancer patients.

Principles of cancer surgery
Dr. Anita Skandarajah MBBS MD FRACS — Author
Cancer Council Australia Oncology Education Committee — Co-author
http://wiki.cancer.org.au/oncologyformedicalstudents/Principles_of_cancer_surgery

http://www.surgwiki.com/wiki/Principles_of_surgical_oncology

Principles of surgery for malignant disease
http://www.surgwiki.com/wiki/Principles_of_surgical_oncology#Principles_of_surgery_for_malignant_disease

Screening

Surgical resection has the potential to cure early or localized cancers which have not metastasized. In general early cancers equate with curability. For example, a malignant polyp in the colon is usually curable by surgery. However, this does not always hold true. Small breast cancers may metastasize early with cure not inevitable from surgical excision alone. Screening for cancer to detect early asymptomatic cancers is now commonplace.

For screening to be effective, the test must be able to detect a common cancer at a stage when it can be cured by treatment. For screening to be effective it must be introduced on a population basis. The most effective screening program has been cervical screening where, since its introduction, there has been a substantial fall in mortality from cervical cancer in all age groups. Similar less dramatic effect is seen with breast cancer screening by mammography.

Surgeons are involved in screening programs performing endoscopies and biopsies (e.g. abnormal Barrett’s mucosa), excising polyps from the colons at colonoscopy and biopsying mammographically detected breast lesions.

Diagnosis

A tissue diagnosis is essential prior to the creation of any management plan for a cancer patient. The consequences of many cancer treatments are so severe that only rarely can treatment be commenced without a pathological diagnosis. Tissue is obtained by fine needle aspiration, core biopsy or by excisional biopsy.

Assessment of the patient

An important early part of the assessment of a patient with cancer is to determine the psychological and physical fitness of the patient. An idea of the ‘health’ of the patient can be gained from a simple clinical assessment, the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) status. Patients who are ECOG 3 or lower will usually have a poor outcome from any treatment including major surgery.

All patients undergoing major surgery need assessment of the clinical status including, where appropriate, tests of cardiac function, for example scans and angiography if indicated, respiratory status by lung function tests and renal function tests including creatinine clearance.

Staging of malignant disease

Accurate staging of the extent of disease is of great importance in formulating a treatment plan. Clinical stage is that defined by clinical examination and imaging of the patient. It is often not accurate but with the use of high quality CT and PET scanning the accuracy is improved. Pathological staging is that defined after excisional surgery by the anatomical pathologist. It is accurate in defining the extent of disease associated with a primary tumor. The staging system is varied according to the primary site of the tumor.

Rectal cancers have a long-standing clinical and pathological staging system known as the Cuthbert-Dukes staging system. Dukes A is local disease in the rectum not invading muscularis propria; Dukes B, the tumour has extended through the wall of the bowel; and Dukes C, where there is lymph node involvement. Dukes D is when distant metastases are present. The Dukes system is commonly used alongside the TNM system.

Methods of clinical staging include radiological methods such as CT, MRI and ultrasound. Within the area of nuclear medicine are PET scanning and nuclear scanning generally (e.g. bone scanning). Laparoscopy is an added staging method which detects intra-abdominal tumors.

Decision about treatment at the multidisciplinary conference

Armed with information about the diagnosis of the cancer, the extent of the disease, that is the clinical stage of the disease and the fitness of the patient, decisions can be made about the most appropriate treatment program. Ideally consultation with a multidisciplinary team occurs at this stage, however if the decision regarding surgery is straightforward, the multidisciplinary conference usually occurs after the surgery when a pathological stage has been determined. However many cancers require down-staging with radiotherapy or chemotherapy prior to surgery, and multidisciplinary consultations early are important to facilitate this process.

The provision of written information to the patient and family, with careful and repeated discussions, is necessary to ensure that the patient can give informed consent to any treatment plan offered. Patients have the right to refuse all or some of the treatment plan and they are encouraged to be part of the decision making process.

At this stage discussions regarding involvement in research projects, use of resected tissues and involvement in clinical trials need to be commenced.

Principles of operative surgical oncology

The technical issues in surgical oncology are not different from other surgical intervention. Open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, ablative interventions and other technical interventions all have a place in modern surgical oncology. However some important oncological principles exist which must be followed by the surgeon for a satisfactory outcome.

Definition of curative surgery

Despite modern staging methods, occult tumor spread is still discovered by the surgeon, for example small-volume peritoneal disease or unsuspected nodal disease. Frozen section examination of the disease is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. So-called curative surgery is only performed when a total excision of the tumor is possible. The primary tumor and the associated lymph node drainage fields are excised in continuity. A measure of the adequacy of the oncological surgical operation is demonstrated by the findings on pathological examination of the specimen. The operative specimens need to be correctly orientated by the surgeon to allow the pathologist to carefully examine and interpret the specimen given to him. The key issues are:

  • whether the margins of the specimen removed are clear of tumor
  • the total number of lymph nodes excised together with the number of involved lymph nodes.
  • Standards exist for the adequacy of the surgical excision to be assessed in many tumors.

Palliative surgery

Here the operation is performed to overcome some symptom-producing consequence of the tumor either by resection or bypass. This is to remove a potentially symptomatic lesion even though a cure is known to be impossible.
Examples include the following:

In case of pyloric obstruction from an advanced cancer of the stomach, a gastrojejunostomy will provide good palliation of vomiting.

Resection of a bleeding cancer of the colon is justified even in the presence of metastases.

Many other examples exist. ‘Tailoring’ this type of surgery to the needs of the patient without undue morbidity or loss of quality of life is an important role for an oncological surgeon.

Margins of surgical excision

The degree to which normal tissues should be removed with the primary tumor is a subject constantly being researched. A universal rule is not possible to formulate. In general a margin of 2-5 cm is suggested. Particular examples follow:

For excision of melanomas the depth of excision is more important than the extent of surrounding skin. A margin of 2 cm usually suffices in contrast to the 5 cm previously practiced.

However for esophageal resection the majority of the esophagus needs to be resected because the tumor does spread up and down in the submucosal plane.

Soft tissue sarcomas may spread along aponeurotic planes so that complete excision requires the resection of the entire muscle group and fascial compartment to encompass this type of spread.

The recognition that spread of rectal cancer occurs into perirectal tissues has led to the use of the total mesorectal excision of the rectum to improve the completeness of resection.

The principle of complete local excision with an adequate margin is paramount in surgical oncology and it needs to be achieved in different ways depending on the type of tumor being resected.

Lymph node resection

Traditionally the draining lymph nodes from a primary tumor are excised with the local lesion. The main benefit of this removal is increased staging information, which will affect the decisions regarding post-operative adjuvant therapy. In some situations there may be a survival benefit from removal of early-involved lymph nodes. However prophylactic excision of uninvolved nodes does not provide a survival advantage to the patient and exposes the patient to increased morbidity from the node removal. An example is the prophylactic removal of groin lymph nodes (radical groin dissection), when these glands are not involved. This operation is nowadays not performed when the glands are clinically not involved as randomized controlled trials have shown that survival rates have not improved but the morbidity from the operation is significant. Poor skin healing and swelling of the affected leg are two such complications.

Rehabilitation

It is necessary to undertake rehabilitation of the cancer patient who has undergone major a resection. This usually involves the allied health disciplines, part of the oncology team. The type and duration of the process will vary according to the type of tumor and surgery performed.

Follow-up of patient after initial treatment

A program of follow-up is required for cancer patients after their initial treatment. This is for two main reasons. This is to observe the patient and investigate when appropriate to detect recurrent disease, which can then be treated effectively. By definition this is only likely to be useful to the patient when strong effective postoperative therapies are available which will have a real impact on the control of cancer.

Conclusion

The principles of surgical oncology can be applied to many of the systemic practices of surgery. In simple terms the surgeon operating on cancer patients in the 21st century must have some understanding of the malignant process, be prepared to work as part of a team and offer multidisciplinary care, communicate well with a very concerned sometimes desperate group of patients, operate with a high level of skill and perform an adequate cancer operation, help the patient rehabilitate from the treatment and finally be prepared to be involved in the advancing area of surgical science as applied to cancer patients. As God knows, surgeons cannot cure all cancers on their own.

Principles of Surgical Oncology    (Apr 08, 2009)
http://www.cancernetwork.com/articles/principles-surgical-oncology-2 Lawrence D. Wagman, MD, FACS

Surgical oncology, as its name suggests, is the specific application of surgical principles to the oncologic setting. These principles adapt standard surgical approaches to the unique situations that arise when treating cancer patients.

The surgical oncologist must be knowledgeable about all of the available surgical and adjuvant therapies, both standard and experimental, for a particular cancer. This enables the surgeon not only to explain the various treatment options to the patient but also to facilitate and avoid interfering with future therapeutic options.

Invasive diagnostic modalities

As the surgeon approaches the patient with a solid malignancy or abnormal nodal disease or the rare individual with a tissue-based manifestation of a leukemia, selection of a diagnostic approach that will have a high likelihood of a specific, accurate diagnosis is paramount. The advent of high-quality invasive diagnostic approaches guided by radiologic imaging modalities has limited the open surgical approach to those situations where the disease is inaccessible, a significant amount of tissue is required for diagnosis, or a percutaneous approach is too dangerous (due, for example, to a bleeding diathesis, critical intervening structures, or the potential for unacceptable complications, such as pneumothorax).

Lymph node biopsy

The usual indication for biopsy of the lymph node is to establish the diagnosis of lymphoma or metastatic carcinoma. Each situation should be approached in a different manner.

Lymphoma The initial diagnosis of lymphoma should be made on a completely excised node that has been minimally manipulated to ensure that there is little crush damage. When primary lymphoma is suspected, the use of needle aspiration does not consistently allow for the complete analyses described above and can lead to incomplete or inaccurate diagnosis and treatment delays.

Carcinoma The diagnosis of metastatic carcinoma often requires less tissue than is needed for lymphoma. Fine-needle aspiration (FNA), core biopsy, or subtotal removal of a single node will be adequate in this situation. The use of immunocytochemical analyses can be successful in defining the primary site, even on small amounts of tissue.

Head and neck adenopathy The head and neck region is a common site of palpable adenopathy that poses a significant diagnostic dilemma. Nodal zones in this area serve as the harbinger of lymphoma (particularly Hodgkin lymphoma) and as sites of metastasis from the mucosal surfaces of the upper digestive tract; nasopharynx; thyroid; lungs; and, occasionally, intra-abdominal sites, such as the stomach, liver, and pancreas. The surgical oncologist must consider the most likely source of the disease prior to performing the biopsy. FNA or core biopsy becomes a valuable tool in this situation, as the tissue sample is usually adequate for basic analysis (cytologic or histologic), and special studies (eg, immunocytochemical analyses) can be performed as needed.

Biopsy of a tissue-based mass

Several principles must be considered when approaching the seemingly simple task of taking a tissue biopsy. As each of the biopsy methods has unique risks, yields, and costs, the initial choice can be a critical factor in the timeliness and expense of the diagnostic process.

Mass in the digestive tract In the digestive tract, biopsy of a lesion should include a representative amount of tissue taken preferably from the periphery of the lesion, where the maximum amount of viable malignant cells will be present. The biopsy must be of adequate depth to determine penetration of the tumors. This is particularly true for carcinomas of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx.

Breast mass Although previously a common procedure, an open surgical biopsy of the breast is rarely indicated today. Palpable breast masses that are highly suspicious (as indicated by physical findings and mammography) can be diagnosed as malignant with close to 100% accuracy with FNA. However, because the distinction between invasive and noninvasive diseases is often required prior to the initiation of treatment, a core biopsy, performed either under image guidance (ultrasonography or mammography) or directly for palpable lesions, is the method of choice.

An excellent example of the interdependence of the method of tissue diagnosis and therapeutic options is the patient with a moderate-sized breast tumor considering breast conservation who chooses preoperative chemotherapy for downsizing of the breast lesion. The core biopsy method establishes the histologic diagnosis, provides adequate tissue for analyses of hormone-receptor levels and other risk factors, causes little or no cosmetic damage, does not perturb sentinel node analyses, and does not require extended healing prior to the initiation of therapy. In addition, a small radio-opaque clip can be placed in the tumor to guide the surgical extirpation. This step is important because excellent treatment responses can make it difficult for the surgeon to localize the original tumor site.

Mass in the trunk or extremities For soft-tissue or bony masses of the trunk or extremities, the biopsy technique should be selected on the basis of the planned subsequent tumor resection. The incision should be made along anatomic lines in the trunk or along the long axis of the extremity. When a sarcoma is suspected, FNA can establish the diagnosis of malignancy, but a core biopsy will likely be required to determine the histologic type and plan neoadjuvant therapy.

Specific Surgical References

Adjuvant chemotherapy after preoperative (chemo)radiotherapy and surgery for patients with rectal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual patient data
AJ Breugom, M Swets, Jean-François Bosset, L Collette, ..CJH van de Velde
Lancet (Oncology) 2015; 16: 200-207.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71199-4

Background The role of adjuvant chemotherapy for patients with rectal cancer after preoperative (chemo)radiotherapy and surgery is uncertain. We did a meta-analysis of individual patient data to compare adjuvant chemotherapy with observation for patients with rectal cancer. Methods We searched PubMed, Medline, Embase, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, CENTRAL, and conference abstracts to identify European randomized, controlled, phase 3 trials comparing observation with adjuvant chemotherapy after preoperative (chemo)radiotherapy and surgery for patients with non-metastatic rectal cancer. The primary endpoint of interest was overall survival. Findings We analyzed data from four eligible trials, including data from 1196 patients with TNM stage II or III disease, who had an R0 resection, had a low anterior resection or an abdominoperineal resection, and had a tumor located within 15 cm of the anal verge. We found no significant differences in overall survival between patients who received adjuvant chemotherapy and those who underwent observation (hazard ratio [HR] 0·97, 95% CI 0·81–1·17; p=0·775); there were no significant differences in overall survival in subgroup analyses. Overall, adjuvant chemotherapy did not significantly improve disease-free survival (HR 0·91, 95% CI 0·77–1·07; p=0·230) or distant recurrences (0·94, 0·78–1·14; p=0·523) compared with observation. However, in subgroup analyses, patients with a tumor 10–15 cm from the anal verge had improved disease-free survival (0·59, 0·40–0·85; p=0·005, p interaction=0·107) and fewer distant recurrences (0·61, 0·40–0·94; p=0·025, p interaction=0·126) when treated with adjuvant chemotherapy compared with patients undergoing observation. Interpretation Overall, adjuvant fluorouracil-based chemotherapy did not improve overall survival, disease-free survival, or distant recurrences. However, adjuvant chemotherapy might benefit patients with a tumor 10–15 cm from the anal verge in terms of disease-free survival and distant recurrence. Further studies of preoperative and postoperative treatment for this subgroup of patients are warranted.

Breast-conserving surgery with or without irradiation in women aged 65 years or older with early breast cancer (PRIME II): a randomised controlled trial
IH Kunkler, LJ Williams, WJL Jack, DA Cameron, JM Dixon, et al.
Lancet Oncol 2015; 16: 266–73
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71221-5

Background For most older women with early breast cancer, standard treatment after breast-conserving surgery is adjuvant whole-breast radiotherapy and adjuvant endocrine treatment. We aimed to assess the effect omission of whole-breast radiotherapy would have on local control in older women at low risk of local recurrence at 5 years. Methods Between April 16, 2003, and Dec 22, 2009, 1326 women aged 65 years or older with early breast cancer judged low-risk (ie, hormone receptor-positive, axillary node-negative, T1–T2 up to 3 cm at the longest dimension, and clear margins; grade 3 tumor histology or lympho-vascular invasion, but not both, were permitted), who had had breast conserving surgery and were receiving adjuvant endocrine treatment, were recruited into a phase 3 randomized controlled trial at 76 centers in four countries. Eligible patients were randomly assigned to either whole-breast radiotherapy (40–50 Gy in 15–25 fractions) or no radiotherapy by computer-generated permuted block randomization, stratified by center, with a block size of four. The primary endpoint was ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence. Follow-up continues and will end at the 10-year anniversary of the last randomized patient. Analyses were done by intention to treat. The trial is registered on ISRCTN.com, number ISRCTN95889329.n Findings 658 women who had undergone breast-conserving surgery and who were receiving adjuvant endocrine treatment were randomly assigned to receive whole-breast irradiation and 668 were allocated to no further treatment. After median follow-up of 5 years (IQR 3·84–6·05), ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence was 1·3% (95% CI 0·2–2·3; n=5) in women assigned to whole-breast radiotherapy and 4·1% (2·4–5·7; n=26) in those assigned no radiotherapy (p=0·0002). Compared with women allocated to whole-breast radiotherapy, the univariate hazard ratio for ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence in women assigned to no radiotherapy was 5·19 (95% CI 1·99–13·52; p=0·0007). No differences in regional recurrence, distant metastases, contralateral breast cancers, or new breast cancers were noted between groups. 5-year overall survival was 93·9% (95% CI 91·8–96·0) in both groups (p=0·34). 89 women died; eight of 49 patients allocated to no radiotherapy and four of 40 assigned to radiotherapy died from breast cancer. Interpretation Postoperative whole-breast radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery and adjuvant endocrine treatment resulted in a significant but modest reduction in local recurrence for women aged 65 years or older with early breast cancer 5 years after randomization. However, the 5-year rate of ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence is probably low enough for omission of radiotherapy to be considered for some patients.
Disease-free survival after complete mesocolic excision compared with conventional colon cancer surgery: a retrospective, population-based study   CA Bertelsen, AU Neuenschwander, JE Jansen, M Wilhelmsen, et al.
Lancet Oncol 2015; 16: 161–68
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71168-4

Background Application of the principles of total mesorectal excision to colon cancer by undertaking complete mesocolic excision (CME) has been proposed to improve oncological outcomes. We aimed to investigate whether implementation of CME improved disease-free survival compared with conventional colon resection. Methods Data for all patients who underwent elective resection for Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) stage I–III colon adenocarcinomas in the Capital Region of Denmark between June 1, 2008, and Dec 31, 2011, were retrieved for this population-based study. The CME group consisted of patients who underwent CME surgery in a centre validated to perform such surgery; the control group consisted of patients undergoing conventional colon resection in three other hospitals. Data were collected from the Danish Colorectal Cancer Group (DCCG) database and medical charts. Patients were excluded if they had stage IV disease, metachronous colorectal cancer, rectal cancer (≤15 cm from anal verge) in the absence of synchronous colon adenocarcinoma, tumor of the appendix, or R2 resections. Survival data were collected on Nov 13, 2014, from the DCCG database, which is continuously updated by the National Central Office of Civil Registration. Findings The CME group consisted of 364 patients and the non-CME group consisted of 1031 patients. For all patients, 4-year disease-free survival was 85·8% (95% CI 81·4–90·1) after CME and 75·9% (72·2–79·7) after non-CME surgery (log-rank p=0·0010). 4-year disease-free survival for patients with UICC stage I disease in the CME group was 100% compared with 89·8% (83·1–96·6) in the non-CME group (log-rank p=0·046). For patients with UICC stage II disease, 4-year disease-free survival was 91·9% (95% CI 87·2–96·6) in the CME group compared with 77·9% (71·6–84·1) in the non-CME group (log-rank p=0·0033), and for patients with UICC stage III disease, it was 73·5% (63·6–83·5) in the CME group compared with 67·5% (61·8–73·2) in the non-CME group (log-rank p=0·13). Multivariable Cox regression showed that CME surgery was a significant, independent predictive factor for higher disease-free survival for all patients (hazard ratio 0·59, 95% CI 0·42–0·83), and also for patients with UICC stage II (0·44, 0·23–0·86) and stage III disease (0·64, 0·42–1·00). After propensity score matching, disease-free survival was signifi cantly higher after CME, irrespective of UICC stage, with 4-year disease-free survival of 85·8% (95% CI 81·4–90·1) after CME and 73·4% (66·2–80·6) after non-CME (log-rank p=0·0014). Interpretation Our data indicate that CME surgery is associated with better disease-free survival than is conventional colon cancer resection for patients with stage I–III colon adenocarcinoma. Implementation of CME surgery might improve outcomes for patients with colon cancer.

Biomolecular and clinical practice in malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer: what thoracic surgeons should know
I Opitza, R Bueno, E Lim, H Pass, U Pastorino, M Boeri, G Rocco, et al.
European J Cardio-Thor Surg 46(2014):602–606
http://dx.doi.org:/10.1093/ejcts/ezu048

Today, molecular-profile-directed therapy is a guiding principle of modern thoracic oncology. The knowledge of new biomolecular technology applied to the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of lung cancer and mesothelioma should be part of the 21st century thoracic surgeons’ professional competence. The European Society of Thoracic Surgeons (ESTS) Biology Club aims at providing a comprehensive insight into the basic biology of the diseases we are treating. During the 2013 ESTS Annual Meeting, different experts of the field presented the current knowledge about diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in malignant pleural mesothelioma including new perspectives as well as the role and potential application of microRNA and genomic sequencing for lung cancer, which are summarized in the present article.

 

Principles of Surgical Therapy in Oncology
Michael S. Sabel, Kathleen M. Diehl, and Alfred E. Chang
With the expansion of the multidisciplinary approach to cancer, the role of the surgeon has changed significantly. In addition to the well-established curative role, surgeons are often asked to obtain tissue for diagnosis and staging, debulk tumors as part of multimodality therapy, palliate incurable patients, or prevent cancer by the surgical removal of nonessential organs. As the management of cancer is altered by new discoveries in genetics, molecular biology, immunology, and improved therapeutics, so too will the functions of the surgical oncologist change. With our increased understanding of the genetic predisposition to cancer, the surgeon is increasingly being asked to remove healthy organs to prevent malignancy. However, as other effective methods of prevention are developed, such as chemoprevention or gene therapy, this role will certainly diminish. Improving imaging technologies may have diminished the need for surgical intervention for staging (such as in Hodgkin’s lymphoma), but the expanded use of neoadjuvant therapies often requires interventions to accurately assess response to therapy. In addition, harvesting tumors may become increasingly important for molecular staging as well as identifying molecular targets for specific therapies. It is therefore imperative for surgical oncologists to remain up-to-date on the newest approaches to cancer therapy, both multidisciplinary and experimental, and be prepared to adapt to the changing requirements for surgery.

The major objective for surgery of the primary cancer is to achieve optimal local control of the lesion. Local control is defined as the elimination of the neoplastic process and establishing a milieu in which local tumor recurrence is minimized. Historically, this was achieved with radical extirpative surgeries that shaped the surgical oncologists’ major objective, namely, avoiding a local recurrence. Before William Halsted’s description of the radical mastectomy, surgical

treatment of breast cancer resulted in a dismal local control rate of less than 30%. The reason why Halsted’s procedure was adopted as a standard approach was because he achieved greater than 90% local control, despite the fact that the overall survival of his patients was not improved.4 The latter was due to the locally advanced stage of the patients who were treated in those days. This consideration ushered in the concept of en bloc removal of adjacent tissue when removing a primary cancer. Halsted’s mastectomy involved the removal of adjacent skin (often necessitating a skin graft), underlying pectoral muscles, and axillary lymph nodes (Figure 4.1). One of the major principles of surgical therapy of the primary tumor is to obtain adequate negative margins around the primary tumor, which could mean different operative approaches depending on the tumor type and its local involvement with adjacent structures. For example, the removal of a primary colon cancer that involves an adjacent loop of small bowel or bladder requires the en bloc resection of the primary tumor along with removal of the involved segment of small bowel and bladder wall. This approach avoids violation of the primary tumor margins that could lead to tumor spillage and possible implantation of malignant cells in the surrounding normal tissues. Aside from biopsies of the primary tumor, the lesion should not be entered during a definitive resection. In fact, any biopsy tract or incision that was performed before the tumor resection should be included in the procedure to reduce the risk of local recurrence (Figure 4.2). The risk of local recurrence for all solid malignancies is clearly increased if negative margins are not achieved. The adequacy of the negative margin has been defined for most tumor types either from retrospective clinical experience or prospective clinical trials. For example, a 5-cm margin is an adequate bowel margin for primary colon cancers that has been established from clinical experience. Likewise, it is accepted that a 2-cm distal margin for rectal cancers results in adequate local control. Through several prospective, randomized clinical trials, the margins of excision for primary cutaneous melanomas differ according to the thickness of the primary (see Chapter 60). It was a commonly held notion that the development of a local recurrence would in itself result in metastatic disease with decreased overall survival. However, this has not been borne out in the context of prospective trials as described here. The emergence of multimodal therapy has dramatically affected the surgical approach to many primary cancers, especially when surgical resection of the tumor is combined with radiotherapy. Local control is significantly improved after surgical resection of breast, rectal, sarcoma, head and neck, and pancreatic primary cancers. In fact, the addition of radiation therapy as an adjunctive therapy has allowed for less-radical procedures to be performed with an improvement in the quality of life of patients. A prime example of this is in breast cancer. Several clinical trials have demonstrated that the overall survival of patients with invasive breast cancer was comparable if treated by mastectomy versus lumpectomy plus adjuvant radiotherapy.

The regional lymph nodes represent the most prevalent site of metastasis for solid tumors. Because of this, the involvement of the regional lymph nodes represents an important prognostic factor in the staging of the cancer patient. For this reason, the removal of the regional lymph nodes is often performed at the time of resection of the primary cancer. Besides staging information, a regional lymphadenectomy provides regional control of the cancer. Examples of this are patients with melanoma who have tumor metastatic to lymph nodes. It is well documented that the removal of these regional lymph nodes can result in long-term survival benefit in approximately 20% to 40% of individuals depending upon the extent of nodal involvement. Hence, the removal of regional lymph nodes can be therapeutic. The controversies regarding regional lymphadenectomy for solid malignancies have related to the timing of the procedure as well as the extent of the procedure. For some visceral solid tumors such as gastric and pancreatic cancers, the extent of lymphadenectomy at the time of primary tumor resection has been hypothesized to be important in optimizing local and regional control and has an impact on improving overall survival. This concept has not been borne out in prospective randomized trials of gastric cancer in which the extent of lymphadenectomy has been examined.

Based on these trials, the more-extended lymphadenectomy appears to result in more accurate staging of patients at a cost of increased morbidity. For nonvisceral solid tumors such as melanoma, breast cancers, and head and neck squamous cancers, the elective removal of regional lymph nodes at the time of primary tumor resection has been postulated to result in better survival outcomes compared to taking the wait-and-watch approach. The latter involves performing a lymphadenectomy only when the patient relapses in a nodal basin that would then necessitate a therapeutic lymph node dissection. In prospective randomized clinical studies evaluating elective versus therapeutic lymph node dissection in various tumor types, there was no survival advantage for performing elective lymph node dissections (Table 4.2). It is apparent from these controversies that the initial removal of regional lymph nodes is most important for its staging impact, rather than its therapeutic effect. The introduction of selective lymphadenectomy based upon the concept of the sentinel lymph node has dramatically improved our ability to stage the regional lymph nodes of certain cancers. This is reviewed in more detail in the Diagnosis and Staging section of this chapter.

One of the earliest examples of surgical prophylaxis is the recommendation for total proctocolectomy for subsets of patients with chronic ulcerative colitis. Patients with pancolitis, onset of disease at a young age, and a long duration of colitis are at high risk of developing colorectal cancer.36 Other clinical diseases of the large intestine also illustrate the role of proctocolectomy in cancer prevention. Familial adenomatous polyposis coli (FAP) syndrome, defined by the diffuse involvement of the colon and rectum with adenomatous polyps often in the second or third decade of life, almost always predisposes to colorectal cancer if the large intestine is left in place. However, the role of screening and prophylactic proctocolectomy changed dramatically with the identification of the gene responsible for FAP, the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene, located on the long arm of chromosome 5 (5q21).37 Now, children of families in which an APC mutation has been identified can have genetic testing before polyps become evident. Carriers can have screening and surgical resection once polyps appear, usually in the late teens or early twenties. Although not ideal, the palatability of proctocolectomy in this population was furthered with the description of the total abdominal colectomy, mucosal proctectomy, and ileoanal pouch anastomosis.38

Another example of prophylactic surgery is the bilateral mastectomy for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Before the identification of the BRCA genes, prophylactic mastectomies were typically reserved as an option for women with lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). However, with the identification of BRCA1 and BRCA2, the role of prophylactic mastectomies has been greatly expanded. For women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, the lifetime probability of breast cancer is between 40% and 85%.41–43 Because mastectomy cannot remove all breast tissue, women can expect a 90% to 94% risk reduction with prophylactic surgery.44 Schrag et al. calculated the estimated gain in life expectancy after prophylactic surgery versus no operation in women with either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and found a 30-year-old woman would be expected to gain 2.9 to 5.3 years of life, depending on her family history.45 However, potential benefits of prophylactic mastectomy must be weighed against quality of life issues and the morbidity of the surgery.46 In addition, other methods for prophylaxis, such as tamoxifen chemoprevention or bilateral oophorectomy, must be considered. Along with the increased risk of breast cancer with BRCA1/2 mutations, the risk of ovarian cancer is also increased. Bilateral oophorectomy after childbearing is complete not only reduces the risk of ovarian cancer47 but may also decrease the risk of breast cancer.48 A detailed discussion must be held with each patient considering bilateral mastectomies regarding the risks and benefits, the knowns and unknowns. It is becoming increasingly important that today’s surgical oncologist have a clear understanding of genetics and inherited risk.

Increased genetic knowledge has also changed our approach to thyroid cancer. Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is a wellestablished component of multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2a (MEN 2a) or type 2b (MEN 2b). Previously, family members at risk for MEN 2 underwent annual screening for elevated calcitonin levels; however, this only detected MTC after it developed. In 1993 it was identified that mutations in the RET proto-oncogene were present in almost all cases of MEN 2a and 2b. Now family members of MEN patients can be screened for the presence of a RET mutation. Those without the mutation need not undergo additional screening, whereas those with the mutation should undergo total thyroidectomy at a young age (6 years for MEN 2a, infancy for MEN 2b).49

The readers are reminded that older or elderly patients will increasingly make up the population of patients with cancer. Currently 60% of all malignancies, and 70% of all cancer deaths, occur in people over the age of 65.58 In addition to the previously mentioned considerations, assessment of the older patient should include evaluation of activities of daily living, depression, cognitive function, current medications and potential medication interactions, and available social support.59–62

  1. Lewison EF. Breast Cancer and Its Diagnosis and Treatment. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1955.
  2. Rutledge RH. Theodore Billroth: a century later. Surgery (St. Louis) 1995;118:36–43.
  3. Weir R. Resection of the large intestine for carcinoma. Ann Surg 1886;1886(3):469–489.
  4. Halsted WS. The results of operations for the cure of cancer of the breast performed at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from June 1889 to January 1894. Ann Surg 1894;320(13):497–555.
  5. Clark JG. A more radical method for performing hysterectomy for cancer of the cervix. Johns Hopkins Bull 1895;6:121.
  6. Crile G. Excision of cancer of the head and neck. JAMA 1906; XLVII:1780.
  7. Miles WE. A method for performing abdominoperineal excision for carcinoma of the rectum and terminal portion of the pelvic colon. Lancet 1908;2:1812–1813.
  8. Krakoff IH. Progress and prospects in cancer treatment: the Karnofsky legacy. J Clin Oncol 1994;12:432–438.
  9. Farber S, Diamond LK, Mercer RD, et al. Temporary regressions in acute leukemia in children produced by folic acid antagonist, aminopteroyl-glutamic acid. N Engl J Med 1948;238: 693.
  10. Huggins CB, Hodges CV. Studies on prostatic cancer: the effect of castration, of estrogen and of androgen injection on serum phosphatases in metastatic carcinoma of the prostate. Cancer Res 1941;1:293–297.
  11. Lawrence W Jr, Wilson RE, Shingleton WW, et al. Surgical oncology in university departments of surgery in the United States. Arch Surg 1986;121:1088–1093.
  12. Fisher B, Remond C, Poisson R, et al. Eight-year results of a randomized clinical trial comparing total mastectomy and lumpectomy with or without irradiation in the treatment of breast cancer. N Engl J Med 1989;320:822–828.

Quality of surgery: has the time come for colon cancer?
Lancet (Oncology)   Feb 2015; 16  
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71223-9

Major improvements in outcomes for rectal cancer have occurred in the 30 years since the introduction of total mesorectal excision and multidisciplinary treatment.1 This situation should continue to improve with more radical surgery for low rectal cancer. Pioneering work by leaders of rectal cancer surgery was initially ignored and it took the independent reproduction of the improved outcomes in single hospital and small regional studies before large-scale regional and national training programs led to major reductions in local recurrence, significant improvements in survival, and major financial savings occurred around the world. Colon cancer accounts for around 70% of bowel cancer and although survival has improved, it has not been to the same extent as that for rectal cancer, with substantial variation remaining between hospitals for operative cases. Historical reports have shown significantly improved survival in colon cancer following surgical standardization,2–4 and excellent results from Japan have largely been ignored.5 The rectal cancer story is repeating itself. Colonic cancer resection in western countries is unfortunately still viewed as a routine procedure with little concern surrounding these major variations in outcome. Indeed the focus has been on laparoscopic surgery rather than optimisation of the surgery. In The Lancet Oncology, a paper by Claus Anders Bertelsen and colleagues,6 and the debate it should generate, is a key step to reproduce the benefits of optimum rectal cancer surgery in colonic cancer, and hints at what could be achievable by the routine adoption of high-quality surgery. In this detailed report, the researchers show that implementation of complete mesocolic excision (CME) with central vascular ligation (CVL) results in a major improvement in survival. By simply visiting and adopting the methods of expert surgeons in Erlangen, led by Werner Hohenberger,4 and by quality controlling their surgery through mesocolic grading, routine specimen photography, and internal and external pathology audit,7 the researchers have independently reproduced results from Erlangen and Japan. The improvement in outcome described could be attributable to two specific variables; first, CME, which comprises the intact removal of the mesocolon and its lymphatic drainage within embryological planes. This procedure should be routine; it does not increase risks to the patient and might seem obvious since careful dissection following anatomical planes is a basic principle of surgery and such planes were described in the early 20th century, but on close scrutiny surgical planes are very variable and must be improved.8,9 Second, but more controversially, is the role of CVL. This procedure entails more radical central dissection, with potential risk to major vessels, nerves, and organs such as the pancreas. In Erlangen, Japan, and now in Hillerød, such surgery seems to be safe, but several important questions remain. How much benefit does it convey in addition to mesocolic surgery? What is the learning curve and is this achievable for all surgeons? Can it be safely achieved laparoscopically? Is the same benefi t derived for all stages of disease?

Radiation therapy in the locoregional treatment of triple-negative breast cancer
Meena S Moran
Lancet Oncol 2015; 16: e113–22

This Review assesses the relevant data and controversies regarding the use of radiotherapy for, and locoregional management of, women with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In view of the strong association between BRCA1 and TNBC, knowledge of baseline mutation status can be useful to guide locoregional treatment decisions. TNBC is not a contraindication for breast conservation therapy because data suggest increased locoregional recurrence risks (relative to luminal subtypes) with breast conservation therapy or mastectomy. Although a boost to the tumour bed should routinely be considered after whole breast radiation therapy, TNBC should not be the sole indication for postmastectomy radiation, and accelerated delivery methods for TNBC should be off ered on clinical trials. Preliminary data implying a relative radioresistance for TNBC do not imply radiation omission because radiation provides an absolute locoregional risk reduction. At present, the integration of subtypes in locoregional management decisions is still in its infancy. Until level 1 data supporting treatment decisions based on subtypes are available, standard locoregional management principles should be adhered to.

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The Experience of a Patient with Thyroid Cancer

Interviewer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

 

Thyroid cancer is usually a fairly innocuous disease, but it can present in different ways. There are are perhaps two main types – medullary, and follicular.  But an anaplastic type is also a third uncommon type.  It is speculative for me to suggest that the anaplastic type is a progression of either of the two main types.  A RAS genotype coexists with the aggressive anaplastic carcinoma.  Thyroid cancers are BRAF positive in genotype.  The histological feature that is used to identify this neoplasm is the presence of “sammoma bodies”.  It is more common in women, and less common in the elderly, and the incidence appears to have increased regionally in recent years.  A recent paper suggests a common specific feature with breast cancer, which is unconfirmed.

When we consider thyroid disease, we start with euthyroid status, hypothyroid and hyperthyroid, all of which are related to the synthetic activity of the gland, that has a right and left lobe joined by a isthmus.  In the midwestern US there is a deficiency of iodine, which leads to nodular thyroid goiter.  The Mayo brothers pioneered in thyroid surgery at their clinic in Rochester, MN.  This led to the insertion of iodine in table salt (Morton’s salt- “when it rains, it pours).  Hyperthyroid status is over production of the hormone by an overactive gland. It is usually primary disease, called Grave’s Disease, after the physician who described it. I am not aware of the occurrence secondary to hyperactivity of the pituitary gland, which would result in both an increased thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), thyrotropin, and elevated thyroid hormone, except by a primary neoplasm of thyrotropin secreting cells.  The two hormones are under feedback control.  This feedback is a valuable diagnostic indicator because the TSH is suppressed with Grave’s disease.  The TSH assay is very accurate, and as the TSH falls, the TH increases, but the TH assay has never been as accurate as the TSH. The TH is transported in serum by three proteins: thyroxin-binding globulin (TBG), albumin, and trans-thy-retin (TTR), a quadruplex peptide with one subunit binding to retinol-binding protein (RPB), which transports retinol, vitamin A).  The importance of TTR is not a subject for discussion here, but it has extremely important ties to metabolic disease that includes hyperhomocysteinemia and Alzheimer’s disease, as this protein is produced by both the liver and the choroid plexus, but the CP production declines in the elderly.  The TTR metabolism is closely linked to total body sulfur, measured by K+ isotope measurement of lean body mass (fat free mass), and is a more accurate measure than use of urinary creatinine loss, which only measure the structural body mass, but not the visceral component.

There is another twist to the story in that thyroid hormone may be depressed over time secondary to an autoantibody to thyroid “peroxidase”, leading to destruction of the gland.  The thyroid antibody that occurs has been recently reported to be a “peroxidase” antibody in common with the mammary gland.  The disorder is denominated – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The presence of thyroid antibody may occur with Grave’s disease, with an occular protrusion with inflammation of the adductor muscles of eye movement.  This is termed “exophthalmus”.  However, thyroid eye disease is known to occur with hypo-, hyper-, and euthyroid status.

I here describe the long and difficult search to identify a confusing case.

 

Family history: Mother had thyroid cancer, surgically cured at Mayo Clinic. Sister had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Father had severe rheumatoid arthritis.

History of Illness.  The patient is a male over 65 years age who attended a discussion group for several years and participated in supervised fitness exercises and did daily walks for 2-3 years prior to the discovery of the problem when he recalls, his voice was weak in making presentations to the discussion group (age 86 and over).

At the end of summer, 2013, he experienced shortness of breath and dizziness on walking.  His physician had been concerned about the change of voice prior to this.  He had a history of sleep apnea, and he was actively trying to lose weight.  Cardiac and vascular examination of carotid and of peripheral circulation were unexpectedly excellent.  Pulmonary studies were good.

A visit to an ENT physician did not explain the voice impairment.  An unexpected low TSH result came back < 0.01, compared to a normal result 9 months earlier. This was the first indication of an active cyst or Grave’s disease. The patient was referred for ultrasound exam, and a thyroid panel was ordered.  The result of the ultrasound was an enlarged right lobe with two large degenerate cysts, and a central small calcified cyst.  The cyst was biopsied and it was malignant. It was BRAF pos and RAS negative.

He was referred to the nearest world-class academic center for further endocrine evaluation.  The endocrinologist palpated a thyroid enlargement, and a biopsy was performed of the lymph nodes under a full scan of the neck.  Surgery was scheduled and a surgeon skilled in endocrine surgery and cancer removed the thyroid, and noted that the right lobe compressed the recurrent laryngeal nerve.  This was consistent with en ENT examination of the larynx that showed paralysis of the right larynx.  The good news was that the prediction was that the nerve innovation was good, and would return.

There were a few involved lymph nodes in the removed specimen. The patient was put on synthroid. The next step was to schedule I131 radioiodine treatment by oral tablets.  This required a preparatory diet of no salt or iodine intake prior to treatment.  There was also a 5 day isolation for beta ray emission (which kills residual thyroid cells).  The neck was scanned with a gamma scanned prior to induction of treatment, which required a dose of synthetic TSH and a low dose of I131.   The patiemt is recovered for 14 days post treatment and has regained much energy.

There is a residual burden of the thyroid eye disease that requires special optical care because of loss of distance perception with diplopia.  This is stable, but any surgical repair would have to wait for a year.

 

Notes from PathologyOutlines.com, Nathan Pernick, Editor-in-Chief

Thyroid gland

Reviewer: Zubair W. Baloch, M.D., Shahidul Islam, M.D., Ph.D., Ricardo R. Lastra, M.D., Michelle R. Pramick, M.D., Phillip A. Williams, M.D., MSC (see Reviewers page)

Revised: 11 July 2014, last major update IN PROGRESS
Copyright: (c) 2001-2014, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.

Endocrine abnormalities and thyroid gland
Hyperthyroidism

Reviewer: Shahidul Islam, M.D., Ph.D.

General
=======================================================

  • Accelerated thyroid hormone biosynthesis and secretion by thyroid gland
  • Early symptoms: anxiety, palpitations, rapid pulse, fatigue, muscle weakness, tremor, weight loss, diarrhea, heat intolerance, warm skin, excessive perspiration, menstrual changes, hand tremor
  • Ocular changes: wide staring gaze and lid lag due to sympathetic overstimulation of levator palpebrae superioris

Thyrotoxicosis: hypermetabolic clinical syndrome due to elevated serum T3 or T4

Types
=======================================================

  • Primary hyperthyroidism: intrinsic thyroid abnormality
    • Low TSH, high free T4, normal TRH stimulation test
  • Secondary hyperthyroidism: high TSH, abnormal TRH stimulation test
  • Subclinical hyperthyroidism: low TSH (< 0.1 µIU/ml), normal T3 and T4 (Eur J Endocrinol 2005;152:1), no clinical hyperthyroidism
  • T3 hyperthyroidism: 1-4%ofhyperthyroid patients
    • Low TSH, high free T3, normal free T4
    • Associated with early treatment of hyperthyroidism with antithyroid drugs
  • T4 hyperthyroidism:highT4, normal T3

Graves’ disease (85%)

Micro images
=======================================================

Diffuse hyperplasia of thyroid gland

Additional references
=======================================================

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

General
=======================================================

  • Autoimmune disease with goiter, elevated circulating anti-thyroid peroxidase and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies
  • First described by Hakaru Hashimoto in 1912 (World J Surg 2008;32:688)

Epidemiology
=======================================================

Clinical features

Clinical features
=======================================================

  • Adults present with painless, gradual thyroid failure due to autoimmune destruction, may initially have transient hyperthyroidism
  • Children have variable hypothyroidism and reversion to euthyroidism so must monitor thyroid function (Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2009;71:451)
  • Associated with HLA-DR5 (goitrous form), HLA-DR3 (atrophic form)
  • May coexist with SLE, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, pernicious anemia, type 2 diabetes, Graves’ disease, chronic active hepatitis, adrenal insufficiency, MALT lymphoma of gastrointestinal tract (80:1 relative risk), other B cell lymphomas
  • Associated with well differentiated thyroid cancer (J Am Coll Surg 2007;204:764)
  • May evolve into thyroid lymphoma (J Clin Pathol 2008;61:438)

 

Laboratory
=======================================================

  • Autoantibodies include:
    • Anti-TSH (specific for Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease)
    • Anti-thyroglobulin (less sensitive but similar specificity as anti-thyroid peroxidase, Clin Chem Lab Med 2006;44:837)
    • Anti-thyroid peroxidase (previously called antimicrosomal antibody, sensitive but not specific as 20% of adult women without disease have these antibodies); anti-iodine transporter (rare)
    • Note: anti-TSH antibodies block the TSH receptor in Hashimoto’s disease but stimulate the TSH receptor in Graves’ disease

Papillary carcinoma

  • 75-80% of thyroid carcinomas
  • Occult tumors in 6% at autopsy (1 to 10 mm), 46% multicentric, 14% with nodal metastases (Am J Clin Pathol 1988;90:72)
  • Occult tumors in up to 24% with other thyroid disease, but with male predominance (Mod Pathol 1996;9:816)

Epidemiology
=======================================================

  • Usually women (70%) of reproductive age

Clinical features
=======================================================

Prognostic factors
=======================================================

  • 10 year survival is 98%, similar to general population (versus 92% for follicular carcinoma); 100% if under age 20, even with nodal metastases
  • Cervical nodal involvement does NOT affect prognosis
  • 5-20% have local recurrences, 10-15% have distant metastases (lung, bones, CNS)
  • Poorer prognosis:
    • Age 40+ or elderly, male (possibly), local invasion (associated with higher incidence of nodal metastases, Arch Pathol Lab Med 1998;122:166), distant metastases (other sites worse than lung, Surgery 2008;143:35), large tumor size, multicentricity, tall cell, columnar or diffuse sclerosing variants
    • Poorly differentiated, anaplastic or squamous foci

added July 14, 2014

Summary – Intraoperative laryngeal nerve monitoring
Objectives: The aim of this study was to stimulate the recurrent laryngeal nerve during thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy and to record the muscle responses in an attempt to predict postoperative vocal fold mobility.
Patients and methods: Intraoperative recurrent laryngeal nerve monitoring during general anaesthesia was performed by using an electrode-bearing endotracheal tube (nerve integrity monitor EMG endotracheal tube [Medtronic Xomed, Jacksonville, Flo, USA]). Two hundred and fifteen recurrent laryngeal nerves from 141 patients undergoing total thyroidectomy (n = 74),
hemithyroidectomy (n = 63), or parathyroidectomy (n = 4) were prospectively monitored. In each case, the muscle potential was recorded after stimulation of the recurrent laryngeal nerve by a monopolar probe.
Results: The nerve stimulation threshold before and after dissection that induced a muscle response of at least 100 V ranged from 0.1 to 0.85 mA (mean 0.4 mA). The supramaximal stimulation intensity was defined as 1 mA. The amplitude of muscle response varied considerably from one patient to another, but the similarity of the muscle response at supramaximal intensity between pre- and postdissection and between postdissection at the proximal and distal exposed
portions of the nerve was correlated with normal postoperative vocal fold function. Inversely, alteration of the muscle response indicated a considerable risk of recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, but was not predictive of whether or not this lesion would be permanent.  http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.anorl.2011.09.003

Summary – Prognostic impact of tumour multifocality in thyroid papillary microcarcinoma
European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck diseases (2012) 129, 175—178

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the prognostic impact of tumour multifocality in papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC).
Methods: All patients who underwent total thyroidectomy and central neck dissection for PTMC in our institution between 1990 and 2007 were included in this retrospective study. Statistical correlations between tumour multifocality and various clinical or pathological prognostic parameters were assessed by univariate and multivariate analyses.
Results: A total of 160 patients (133 women and 27 men; mean age: 47.8 ± 13.7 years) were included in this study. Tumour multifocality was demonstrated in 59 (37%) patients. Central neck metastatic lymph node involvement was identified in 46 (28%) patients. No statistical correlation was demonstrated between tumour multifocality and the following factors: age, gender, tumour size, extension beyond the thyroid, metastatic central neck lymph node involvement and risk of recurrence. A tumour diameter greater than 5 mm was associated with a higher risk of recurrence (P = 0.008).
Conclusion: Tumour multifocality does not appear to have a prognostic impact in PTMC.   http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.anorl.2011.11.003

Positron emission tomography thyroid carcinoma
European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck diseases (2012) 129, 251—256

Objectives: Recurrence is observed in 15—20% of patients under surveillance following treatment of differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). However, due to cell dedifferentiation, the recurrence may be iodine-negative, thereby compromising detection. For this reason, new methods of exploration are indispensable to enable localization of such recurrences. The purpose of this work is to review the contribution of positron emission tomography—computed tomography (PET-CT) in the exploration of iodine-negative recurrent DTC.
Method: A comprehensive review and discussion of the medical literature was carried out.
Results: Depending on the report, the sensitivity of PET-CT ranged from 70% to 85%, with up to 90% specificity. However, the large number of false negatives, which can reach 40%, is the
disadvantage of this examination. PET-CT results lead to change in the therapeutic strategy in approximately 50% of patients with isolated raised serum thyroglobulin levels, and surgical exploration of a precise anatomical area in the neck.
Conclusion: As post-treatment recurrence of a DTC can affect patient survival, a thorough diagnostic work-up is required in these cases. Where thyroglobulin levels are elevated with no uptake on 131-iodine scans, PET-CT can be a useful complementary exploration, especially for localizing the site of recurrence.
http://dx.doi.org:/10.1016/j.anorl.2012.01.003
French ENT Society (SFORL) practice guidelines for lymph-node management in adult differentiated thyroid carcinoma
European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck diseases (2012) 129, 197—206

Cervical and mediastinal lymph-node management differentiated thyroid carcinoma of the follicular epithelium (DTC) remains controversial. Depending on the situation, pre-operative staging and indications for and extent of lymph-node dissection are still matters of debate, even in case of palpable nodes found on primary surgery. Procedural indications for adenectomy, selective neck dissection, and anatomic regional extension of dissection are not clearly defined.

Questions raised:

• what is lymph-node involvement in DTC?
• what is the prognostic value of lymph-node invasion: for
recurrence, and for survival?

• what baseline assessment is required ahead of treatment
of papillary thyroid carcinoma to assess possible lymphnode
involvement?

• what are the principles of lymph-node surgery?
Central and lateral dissection, and dissection extended to the mediastinum;
• what is the iatrogenesis in cN0 and cN+ neck?
• what is the impact of central and lateral neck dissection on recurrence, survival, secondary treatment and surveillance in cN0 and cN+ ?
• in cN0 patients, when neck dissection is considered, what lymph-node regions should be indicated?
http://www.orlfrance.org/ download.php?id=159.

Molecular Diagnosis for Indeterminate Thyroid Nodules on Fine Needle Aspiration
Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2013;13(6):613-62

Somatic mutation testing, mRNA gene expression platforms, protein immunocytochemistry and miRNA panels have improved the diagnostic accuracy of indeterminate thyroid nodules, and although no test is perfectly accurate, in the authors’ opinion, these methods will most certainly become an important part of the diagnostic tools for clinicians and cytopathologists in the future.

Several point mutations and gene rearrangements have been identified in thyroid cancer. The most common somatic mutation in differentiated thyroid cancer  has been studied as a potential tool to enhance the diagnostic accuracy of indeterminate FNA lesions – BRAF. This mutation occurs in papillary, poorly differentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer and causes a V600E substitution in the BRAF protein, which results in neoplastic progression by aberrant activation of the MAPK pathway. The BRAF V600E mutation, along with RET/PTC rearrangements, are a hallmark of thyroid cancer and a vast majority of indeterminate thyroid nodules harboring either one of these two mutations are malignant on final pathology.

The RAS proto-oncogene encodes three different membrane associated GTP proteins: HRAS, KRAS and NRAS. Mutation of these domains causes increased signal transduction through both the MAPK and the PI3K/AKT pathways. These mutations are highly prevalent in FTC and in the follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer (40–50%) and seldom detected in the classic variant papillary thyroid cancer (10%). RAS mutations have also been identified in benign FA; however, it is unclear whether RAS-positive FA have a higher chance of progression to cancer.

Recurrence detection in differentiated thyroid cancer patients..
Clinical endocrinology, Vol. 72, No. 4. (10 September 2009), pp. 558-563, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2265.2009.03693.x

There was a correlation between TgAb level and recurrence (p = 0.032).
). Recurrence was found in 37.5% of 24 TgAb+/Tg- patients who showed a gradually increasing tendency in serial measurements of TgAb. Sixteen cervical foci (21.1%) missed on neck USG and 17 lesions (22.4%) located outside the neck were additionally detected with PET/CT in TgAb+ patients.

Solving the mystery of iodine uptake
Science 20 June 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6190 p. 1355    http://dx.doi.org:/10.1126/science.344.6190.1355-a

The cell membrane protein NIS (sodium/iodine symporter) transports iodine into thyroid cells, but because iodine concentrations outside of the cell are so low, how it does so is a mystery. The key? Moving two sodium ions along with the iodine ion, Nicola et al found. NIS also does not bind sodium very tightly, but the high concentrations of sodium outside the cell allow one sodium ion to bind. This binding increases the affinity of NIS for a second sodium ion and also for iodine. With the three ions bound, NIS changes its conformation so that it opens to the inside of the cell, where the sodium concentration is low enough for NIS to release its sodium ions. When the sodium goes away, so does NIS’s affinity for iodine, leading NIS to release it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thyroid Cancer: The Evolution of Treatment Options.

via Thyroid Cancer: The Evolution of Treatment Options.

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