Radioactive Iodine Treatment Should Be Used in Some but Not All Cases of Papillary Thyroid Cancer

By September 20, 2012 March 3rd, 2024 Past News Releases, Radioactive Iodine, Thyroid Cancer

Falls Church, Virginia. Sep. 20, 2012 –Radioactive iodine should only be used in the treatment of some patients with papillary thyroid cancer, according to data presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) in Québec City, Québec, Canada.

ATA guidelines on the management of well-differentiated thyroid cancer currently recommend the routine use of radioactive iodine for the treatment of tumors >4 cm and selective use of radioactive iodine in patients with intrathyroidal disease that is <1 cm or who have evidence of nodal metastases. However, the guidelines recognize that there are conflicting and inadequate data to make firm recommendations for most patients.

A team of researchers led by Iain Nixon, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, used the GAMES stratification method to retrospectively analyze 1,129 patients who underwent total thyroidectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center between 1986 and 2005. They found that select patients with early primary disease (pT1/T2) and low-volume metastatic disease in the neck (pT1/T2 N1) who were managed without radioactive iodine had excellent outcomes. In the group with advanced local disease (pT3/T4), select patients with pT3N0 disease were also safely managed without radioactive iodine. The 5-year disease-specific survival and recurrence-free survival in the pT1/T2N0, pT1/T2N1, and pT3/T4 were 100% and 92%, 100% and 92%, and 98% and 87%, respectively.

“Though radioactive iodine has a place in the treatment of papillary thyroid cancer, new data show that it should not be a blanket treatment for all patients,” said Elizabeth Pearce, MD, of the Boston Medical Center and Program Co-Chair of the ATA annual meeting. “Instead clinicians must make the decision on whether to recommend adjuvant radioactive iodine to manage thyroid cancer.”

About the ATA Annual Meeting 

The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association will be held Sept. 19-23, in Québec City, Québec, Canada. This four-day creative and innovative scientific program, chaired by Elizabeth Pearce, MD, Boston Medical Center, and Douglas Forrest, PhD, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, carefully balances clinical and basic science sessions on the latest advances in thyroidology. The ATA meeting is designed to offer continuing education for endocrinologists, internists, surgeons, basic scientists, nuclear medicine scientists, pathologists, endocrine fellows and nurses, physician assistants and other health care professionals. Visit for more information.

About the ATA 

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the leading worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement, understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. ATA is an international individual membership organization with over 1,600 members from 43 countries around the world. Celebrating its 89th anniversary, ATA delivers its mission through several key endeavors: the publication of highly regarded monthly journals, THYROID, Clinical Thyroidology and Clinical Thyroidology for Patients; annual scientific meetings; biennial clinical and research symposia; research grant programs for young investigators, support of online professional, public and patient educational programs through; and the development of guidelines for clinical management of thyroid disease. Visit for more information.

Media Contact 

Bobbi Smith
Executive Director 
of the American Thyroid Association

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