Physician assessing patient's thyroid

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer research in the Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery is focused on understanding the full breadth of the disease, from its early stages to advanced cancer. Research is driven by clinician-investigators with profound understanding of the intricacies of thyroid cancer, head and neck anatomy and physiology, airway management, voice, and swallowing function, which require careful study and experience.

The department's integrative and collaborative research approach is uniquely facilitated by the faculty's embedded understanding of thyroid and laryngopharyngeal anatomy and physiology. Further, the Mayo Clinic's shared-management patient care strategy is at the foundation of the department's team-based approach to treating and studying this complex disease. Patient care and clinical research teams often involve multiple experts including:

  • Head and neck surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Endocrinologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Palliative care specialists
  • Social workers

This team approach extends to less aggressive and more-common thyroid cancers and benign thyroid abnormalities. Clinician-investigators manage and study cancers that extend toward the larynx, pharynx and esophagus to find the best ways to maximize preservation of function while minimizing recurrence and side effects or toxicity of treatment. In the course of care, researchers have investigated surgical techniques that have resulted in multiple publications.

This collaborative approach is exemplified by the department's coordinated management of anaplastic thyroid cancer. Researchers have found that treating selected patients with surgery followed by intensity-modulated radiation therapy and — more recently — proton beam radiation therapy, as well as chemotherapy, provides significant improvement in survival. In some cases, patients have been cured.

Recently, the Division of Head and Neck Cancer and Reconstructive Surgery completed a phase II clinical trial investigating the use of immunotherapy (pembrolizumab) combined with chemoradiation therapy for anaplastic thyroid cancer. Researchers are now investigating the underlying immunology of anaplastic thyroid cancer using advanced techniques such as imaging mass cytometry in collaboration with Mayo Clinic's Immune Monitoring Core.

Related publications: