Ricardo Costa 1 , Benedito A Carneiro 1 , 2 , Sunandana Chandra 1 , 2 , Sachin G Pai 1 , Young Kwang Chae 1 , 2 , Jason B Kaplan 1 , 2 , Hannah B Garrett 1 , Mark Agulnik 1 , 2 , Peter A Kopp 3 , Francis J Giles 1 , 2
29 February 2016
Thyroid cancer is the most common endocrine malignancy, with over 60,000 cases reported per year in the US alone. The incidence of thyroid cancer has increased in the last several years. Patients with metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) generally have a good prognosis. Metastatic DTC can often be treated in a targeted manner with radioactive iodine, but the ability to accumulate iodine is lost with decreasing differentiation. Until recently, chemotherapy was the only treatment in patients with advanced thyroid cancer, which is no longer amenable to therapy with radioactive iodine. The modest efficacy and significant toxicity of chemotherapy necessitated the need for urgent advances in the medical field. New insights in thyroid cancer biology propelled the development of targeted therapies for this disease, including the tyrosine kinase inhibitor sorafenib as salvage treatment for DTC. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a second tyrosine kinase inhibitor, lenvatinib, for the treatment of radioiodine-refractory thyroid cancer. Although associated with a significant progression-free survival improvement as compared to placebo in a large Phase III study (median progression-free survival 18.2 vs 3.6 months; hazard ratio 0.21; 99% confidence interval 0.14–0.31; P<0.001), the benefit of lenvatinib needs to be proved in the context of associated moderate to severe toxicities that require frequent dose reduction and delays. This article reviews the evidence supporting the use of lenvatinib as salvage therapy for radioactive iodine-refractory thyroid cancer, with a focus on the toxicity profile of this new therapy.