Therapy Eases Thyroid Cancer's Side Effects

Synthetic hormone helps patients after surgery

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THURSDAY, June 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new treatment reduces the unpleasant and often debilitating side effects of preparing thyroid cancer patients for treatment after they have surgery, says a new study.

An international team of researchers, led by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the University of Pisa in Italy, used a genetically engineered thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) called thyrotropin alfa (rTSH) to betterprepare patients for the radioactive iodine treatment that destroys the small amount of thyroid gland tissue often remaining after thyroid cancer surgery.

They were able to do this without having to withhold thyroid hormone medication. This meant that patients did not have to endure the temporary but unpleasant symptoms caused by thyroid hormone deficiency. These symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain, chilliness, depression, muscle cramps, and slowed thinking.

The research will be presented in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, June 16-18. The study was funded by Genzyme Corp., which makes thyrotropin alfa.

"Recovery from thyroid cancer has been very difficult for patients because thyroid medication -- to replace the thyroid hormone naturally produced by a healthy thyroid gland -- has traditionally been withheld for four to six weeks after surgery so radioiodine could be used to identify and destroy glandular tissue that remained," study co-lead investigator Dr. Paul Ladenson, chief of endocrinology at Hopkins, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about thyroid cancer.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions news release, June 16, 2004

- Robert Preidt

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