Researchers have discovered that external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is a valuable tool in managing patients with thyroid carcinomas, according to a study published in Cancer Reports.

The incidence of thyroid carcinomas has risen in recent years. They are histologically categorized into medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC), and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC). 

There are many potential therapeutic strategies for the management of thyroid carcinomas, but the one most commonly adopted is surgical resection followed by radioactive iodine therapy. EBRT is recommended for patients who are over 45 years of age with unresectable or gross residual locoregional disease. 

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Studies indicate that EBRT is generally well-tolerated in patients with thyroid cancer, achieving promising locoregional control. However, the overall data for the use of EBRT in thyroid carcinomas are limited, especially in DTC and MTC. The authors of the study hence decided to conduct an analytical descriptive study to further elucidate the role of EBRT in the treatment of thyroid cancers. 

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They retrieved data from patients with pathologically confirmed thyroid cancer (N=59) who were treated with EBRT at the cancer institute affiliated with Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran between 2008 and 2016. Patients who received EBRT either had unresectable primary disease or unresectable recurrent disease. EBRT was also used as an adjuvant treatment for residual disease and palliative radiotherapy. 

The researchers calculated progression-free survival and overall survival for the various types of cancer. The findings of the study indicate that EBRT can be useful in treating thyroid cancers in some instances. For example, it can relieve local compressive symptoms and bone pain. 

“The application of EBRT in thyroid cancers could be effective in local control on iodine-resistant cases and palliation of metastatic conditions,” the research team wrote. “Inoperable medullary thyroid cases also benefit from EBRT in controlling the extent of the disease.” 


Esmati E, Aleyasin A, Ghalehtaki R, et al. The role of external beam radiation therapy in the management of thyroid carcinomas: a retrospective study in Iran Cancer Institute. Cancer Rep (Hoboken). Published online June 12, 2022. doi:10.1002/cnr2.1652