Cabozantinib, a medication for the treatment of medullary thyroid cancer, has shown promising results in final-stage testing.
Until now, there is no medication available in Belgium for treating this rare form of thyroid cancer. Dr. Patrick Sch ffski, professor of oncology at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), presented the results at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in early June.
Medullary thyroid cancer accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all malignant thyroid cancers. This disease occurs when the C-cells in the thyroid gland - and not the thyroid cells themselves - become malignant.
C-cells produce the hormone calcitonin and regulate calcium content in the blood and bones. Medullary thyroid cancer can metastasize to the lymph nodes, lungs and bones. Treatment consists of surgical removal of the thyroid and of the lymph nodes in the neck.
Until now, only palliative treatment was available for patients with progressive, unresectable, locally advanced or metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. In an international trial in which University Hospitals Leuven participated, the effect of the drug cabozantinib was studied in patients with advanced, aggressive medullary thyroid cancer.
Cabozantinib, which is available in pill form, is a molecule that inhibits the growth of blood vessels in a tumor. 330 patients from 74 hospitals in 25 countries were screened in the double-blind, randomized trial; two-thirds were given cabozantinib and one-third received a placebo.
A significant reduction in tumor size was observed in 28 percent of cabozantinib-treated patients compared with zero percent in placebo-treated patients. In the cabozantinib group, 47 percent of patients were stable (without relapse) after one year compared with only 7.2 per cent in the placebo group.
In patients who experienced a relapse, relapse occurred after 11.2 months on average in cabozantinib-treated patients.