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Thyroid cancer research

Researchers around the world are looking at better ways to treat thyroid cancer. Go to Cancer Research UK's clinical trial database if you are looking for a trial for thyroid cancer in the UK.

Talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in. 

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of the type of research being carried out in thyroid cancer. 

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments have to be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available 
  • they are known to be safe

The latest research into thyroid cancer is outlined below.

Understanding a rare type of thyroid cancer

Researchers across the UK hope to collect samples of tissue from people with anaplastic thyroid cancer. This is a rare type of cancer so it is difficult to carry out research with a small number of people. These samples will help researchers to learn more about anaplastic thyroid cancer. A greater understanding could lead to better treatments in the future.

Research into radioactive iodine treatment

A trial involving centres across the UK is looking at radioactive iodine treatment. It is trying to find out whether you need this treatment for differentiated thyroid cancer that is low risk.

You might have low risk disease if you have had your thyroid gland removed and your cancer hasn't spread outside your thyroid. This means that it is unlikely that your cancer will come back (recur). You might not need any further treatment, but doctors want to make sure that this is the case. 

Researchers are also looking at the amount of radioactive iodine a person has. They will compare the dose a person is given with the amount their body actually absorbs. The study team think that the success of treatment might depend on the amount of radioactive iodine absorbed.

These results could improve treatment in the future. They could help to make sure that people have the most effective dose of radioactive iodine.

Research into surgery

Researchers are planning to look at surgery for people with a small cancer in their thyroid. Those taking part have differentiated thyroid cancer and a low risk of their thyroid cancer coming back.

The trial team think this group of people may not need all of their thyroid removed. An operation to remove part of their thyroid might work just as well. But this hasn’t been looked at yet as part of a trial. This might reduce some of the complications and side effects that can happen after thyroid surgery.

Research into targeted drugs

Targeted cancer drugs work by ‘targeting’ those differences that help a cancer cell to grow and survive.

A small number of targeted drugs are now routinely used to treat some people with differentiated or medullary thyroid cancer. Doctors are looking at new targeted drugs, comparing these drugs with each other and trying to find the best dose. Trials are looking at:   

  • selpercatinib (Retevmo)
  • cabozantinib (Cometriq)
  • vandetanib (Caprelsa)