Thyroid Cancer: Targeted Therapy
What is targeted therapy?
Targeted therapies use medicines designed to turn off cancer cell's ability to grow
and to spread. They target only cancer cells, rather than all rapidly growing cells
like chemotherapy does.
When might targeted therapy be used for thyroid cancer?
Doctors have found that targeted therapy is especially useful in treating medullary
thyroid cancers (MTCs), which do not respond to the usual iodine- and hormone-based
treatments that work for the other types of thyroid cancer.
Papillary or follicular thyroid cancers that don't respond to the usual treatments
may be treated with targeted therapy, too.
How is targeted therapy given for thyroid cancer?
Some of the targeted therapy medicines used to treat MTCs are:
Both of these are taken at home as a pill once a day. Other targeted therapy medicines
might be tried if neither of these work.
Targeted therapy medicines that may be used to treat papillary or follicular thyroid
These are taken at home as pills.
What are common side effects of targeted therapy?
Some of the more common temporary side effects from targeted therapy include:
High blood pressure
Tiredness or fatigue
Decreased appetite and weight loss
Skin problems, such as dryness, rash, blistering, or darkening skin
Hand-foot syndrome (redness, pain, and swelling in hands or feet)
Most of these side effects will go away or get better after treatment ends. You may
also be able to help control some of these side effects. These medicines can also
rarely cause severe side effects like infection, changes in heart rhythm, or severe
bleeding. Tell your healthcare providers about any side effects you have. They can
help you cope with the side effects.
Working with your healthcare provider
It's important to know which medicines you're taking. Write your medicines down, and
ask your healthcare team how they work and what side effects they might have. Also
be sure to talk about any herbs, vitamins, and supplements you take, as some of these
might cause interactions with your targeted therapy.
Talk with your healthcare providers about what signs to look for and when to call
them. For example, some types of targeted therapy can make you more likely to get
infections. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Is there a different
number for evenings and weekends?
It may be helpful to keep a diary of your side effects. Write down physical, thinking,
and emotional changes. A written list will make it easier for you to remember your
questions when you go to your appointments. It will also make it easier for you to
work with your healthcare team to make a plan to manage your side effects.