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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2011, Article ID 542358, 13 pages
Review Article

Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer: A Review of Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, and Treatment

1Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26508, USA
2Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65203, USA
3Department of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
4Graduate Program in Clinical Investigation, MGH Institute of Health Professions, 36 1st Avenue, Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA 02129, USA

Received 25 February 2011; Accepted 3 April 2011

Academic Editor: V. Valentini

Copyright © 2011 Govardhanan Nagaiah et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is an uncommon malignancy of the thyroid. Only 1-2% of thyroid cancers are anaplastic, but the disease contributes to 14–50% of the mortality with a median survival of 3 to 5 months. Most patients diagnosed with this disease are 65 years of age or older. The incidence of anaplastic thyroid cancer is decreasing worldwide. Most patients present with a rapidly growing neck mass, dysphagia, or voice change. We performed a comprehensive literature search using PubMed focusing on the treatment of anaplastic thyroid cancer including historical review of treatment and outcomes and investigations of new agents and approaches. A total of sixteen chart review and retrospective studies and eleven prospective studies and/or clinical trials were reviewed. The current standard therapeutic approach is to consider the disease as systemic at time of diagnosis and pursue combined modality therapy incorporating cytoreductive surgical resection where feasible and/or chemoradiation either concurrently or sequentially. Doxorubicin is the most commonly used agent, with a response rate of 22%. Several new agents are currently under investigation. Referral of patients for participation in clinical trials is needed.