Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Molecular pathogenesis and emerging therapies

Robert C. Smallridge, Laura A. Marlow, John A. Copland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare malignancy. While external beam radiation therapy has improved locoregional control, the median survival of ∼ 4 months has not changed in more than half a century due to uncontrolled systemic metastases. The objective of this study was to review the literature in order to identify potential new strategies for treating this highly lethal cancer. PubMed searches were the principal source of articles reviewed. The molecular pathogenesis of ATC includes mutations in BRAF, RAS, catenin (cadherin-associated protein), beta 1, PIK3CA, TP53, AXIN1, PTEN, and APC genes, and chromosomal abnormalities are common. Several microarray studies have identified genes and pathways preferentially affected, and dysregulated microRNA profiles differ from differentiated thyroid cancers. Numerous proteins involving transcription factors, signaling pathways, mitosis, proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis, adhesion, migration, epigenetics, and protein degradation are affected. A variety of agents have been successful in controlling ATC cell growth both in vitro and in nude mice xenografts. While many of these new compounds are in cancer clinical trials, there are few studies being conducted in ATC. With the recent increased knowledge of the many critical genes and proteins affected in ATC, and the extensive array of targeted therapies being developed for cancer patients, there are new opportunities to design clinical trials based upon tumor molecular profiling and preclinical studies of potentially synergistic combinatorial novel therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-44
Number of pages28
JournalEndocrine-Related Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cancer Research


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