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Thyroid cancer research

Find out about the latest UK research and clinical trials looking at thyroid cancer.

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 the causes and treatment of thyroid cancer is outlined below.

Research into radiotherapy treatment

Radioactive iodine treatment

A trial involving many centres across the UK is looking at radioactive treatment. It is trying to find out whether this treatment is needed for low risk thyroid cancer (papillary or follicular thyroid cancer).

If you have had your thyroid gland removed, and your cancer hasn't spread outside your thyroid gland, it is very unlikely that any cancer cells are left after surgery. So you might not need any further treatment, but doctors want to make sure that this is the case. 

External radiotherapy

Intensity modulated radiotherapy(IMRT)
Researchers are looking at a type of external beam radiotherapy called IMRT. During IMRT, the radiotherapy beam and the dose within the beam are shaped to match the size and thickness of the tumour.

Giving radiotherapy in this way means that the radiotherapy beam includes smaller amounts of healthy tissue. So you might have fewer or milder side effects.

One trial is trying to find the safest and best dose of IMRT for advanced thyroid cancer.

Planning radiotherapy
Before you start radiotherapy, the doctors plan it carefully. They make sure the radiotherapy is treating the exact area of the cancer. To do this you have a planning CT scan.

The THRIFT study is looking at another type of scan called a PET-CT scan. The aim of this study is to find out if it is possible to use PET-CT scan for people with thyroid cancer.


Researchers are looking at whether a new type of ultrasound can show if lumps in the thyroid are cancerous or not. This ultrasound is called a real time ultrasound elastography.

Other researchers are using PET-CT scans and PET-MR scans to see if they can measure the growth of blood vessels in many different types of cancer including thyroid cancer.

Targeted cancer drugs

Researchers are looking at a targeted drug called selumetinib. It is a cancer growth blocker. They want to find out if it can help people with thyroid cancer that has grown outside the thyroid or spread to another part of the body.  

Information and help