Thyroid cancer, rare but treatable

thyroid cancerWho knew that a little gland in your neck, shaped like a butterfly, could cause so many problems including, potentially, thyroid cancer? The thyroid gland is responsible for many functions in the body by releasing thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. It affects almost every cell in your body. The gland’s main function is to control metabolism, but it can also affect hair and skin growth, mood, body temperature regulation, or how cold or hot you get.

When something goes wrong, like cancer, it can wreak havoc with your body systems, and you might begin to notice some changes. Thyroid cancer is a malignant growth, or tumor, in the thyroid gland. It is a rare cancer, about 2% of all cancers, but it is the most common cancer of the Continue reading

Medullary Thyroid Cancer: Sometimes a Family Affair

The thyroid gland is a hormone producing organ that is located in the front of the neck.
Approximately one out of every 97 individuals will develop thyroid cancer sometime in their lifetime, and this can occur across all age groups. There are many different types of thyroid cancer, each with different prognoses and treatments.

Shanna Gustafson, MS, MPH, is a Cancer Genetics Counselor at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

Shanna Gustafson, MS, MPH, is a Cancer Genetics Counselor at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

Medullary thyroid carcinoma, or MTC, accounts for approximately 10% of new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. Approximately 25-30% of MTC cases are due to a hereditary cancer syndrome known as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2, or MEN2.

MEN2 is caused by problems in a gene called RET, and can be divided into three categories:

  • MEN2A is typically associated with MTC and an increase in risk for pheochromocytoma, a tumor of the adrenal gland.
  • MEN2B is associated with MTC and specific changes in the parathyroid gland that can cause problems with the body’s ability to maintain calcium levels, a condition known as parathyroid hyperplasia. MEN2B is also associated with a taller, leaner physical appearance and prominent lips.
  • Familial MTC is the third category of MEN2 and is typically associated solely with MTC.

Identifying patients who have MEN2 is important as there are specific treatment and cancer prevention options available. Caring for a patient with MEN2, regardless of the subtype, includes screening for parathyroid hyperplasia and pheochromocytoma, as well as preventive surgery. For this reason, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends genetic testing for MEN2 in all individuals with medullary thyroid cancer.

If you or a family member have a history of medullary thyroid cancer, physicians and genetic counselors in the Cancer Genetics Clinic at the University of Michigan are available to meet with you to discuss the possibility of MEN2 and the option to pursue genetic testing to help clarify risks for you and your family.

Additional resources for information on medullary thyroid cancer can be found at:

Thyroid Cancer – Building Awareness

Thyroid cancer is quite common – in fact it’s the 7th most common cancer diagnosed in women. The good news is that, when found and treated early, survival rates are nearly 100%.

January is designated as Thyroid Cancer Awareness month, so it’s the perfect time to take a few minutes to arm yourself with information about thyroid cancer symptoms, screening, risk and prevention.thyroidawareness

Maybe you are wondering……

What does the thyroid do?

Small in stature but with a big job, the thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ that rests in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Typically about the size of a quarter, the thyroid secretes hormones that regulate metabolism, influence growth and development and control body temperature. Continue reading

New Clinical Trial for Thyroid Cancer Patients

Many types of tumors can start in the thyroid gland, which is in the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. Most of them are benign (non-cancerous) but others are malignant (cancerous), which means they can spread into nearby tissues and to other parts of the body. The two most common types of cancer are papillary carcinoma and follicular carcinoma. There are other types of thyroid cancer, which are rare.

Thyroid cancer is commonly diagnosed at a younger age than most other adult cancers. Nearly two out of three cases are found in people younger than 55 years of age. About 2% of thyroid cancers occur in children and teens.

Ronald J. Koenig, M.D.

Ronald J. Koenig, M.D.

Most thyroid cancers can be cured by surgery and radioactive iodine. However, thyroid cancers not cured by those therapies present a problem. As a rule, thyroid cancers do not respond well to chemo. But unlike standard chemo drugs, targeted drugs attack certain targets on cancer cells. The targets they attack can be present on normal cells as well, but the goal is to find targets that help cancer cells grow and thrive.

Ronald Koenig, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at U-M, heads a research team focused on developing targeted drug therapies for thyroid cancer. He talked with mCancer Partner about a new clinical trial that is opening enrollment for certain patients with thyroid cancer.


mCancer Partner: Can you tell me about your newest clinical trial?

Dr. Koenig: In this new trial, to be funded by the National Cancer Institute, we are investigating whether a drug, Actos (pioglitazone), is useful in treating a certain kind of thyroid cancer. Actos is approved by the FDA to treat diabetes, but has not been approved yet to treat any cancers.

mCancer Partner: Who can enroll in this clinical trial?

Dr. Koenig: We will enroll adults with a history of follicular thyroid carcinoma or follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma. These people must have metastatic disease or disease that has recurred locally in the neck, and that cannot be cured by further surgery or radioiodine. We will treat them for at least 24 weeks with daily pioglitazone and measure for response using CT scans and blood tests.

mCancer Partner: Where can someone learn more about this clinical trial?

Dr. Koenig: Details, along with contact information for enrolling, are available through UMClinicalStudies. This is a helpful website allowing people to easily search and find clinical and health research studies happening at the U-M. Our study’s ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier is NCT01655719.

Learn more about the Cancer Center’s thyroid cancer program or call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125 to speak with a nurse.