Thyroid cancer is usually successfully treated with surgery. The problem is - this is one of the cancers that tends to reappear. New research has uncovered a means for overcoming a common obstacle in treating thyroid cancer.
BRAF gene mutations occur in about 25 percent of thyroid cancers, particularly high-grade tumors that often become resistant to standard treatments with radioactive iodine (RAI). Researchers have found that targeting the BRAF mutations may help these tumors become more responsive to therapy.
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Researchers, led by James Fagin, M.D., chief of Endocrinology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, have found a way to work with BRAF mutations in papillary carcinoma, the most common type of thyroid cancer.
Dr. Fagin and his team first discovered that thyroid cancers were what they called "exquisitely dependent on BRAF for viability."
Next, the team treated mice with thyroid tumors with drugs that blocked the BRAF signaling pathway. They found that this therapy made the tumor cells more responsive to therapeutic doses of RAI.
Researchers suggest this data provides enough evidence for clinical trials to be conducted which will focus on restoring RAI therapy efficacy in patients with papillary thyroid cancers who have BRAF mutations.
This research was published in November, 2011 edition of Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Cancer is diagnosed in over 12 million people each year, kills over 7 million and one out of every three people will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer at some point in their lifetime in the United States. Cancer is a group of diseases classified by abnormal and uncontrolled cellular growth in a particular organ or tissue type in the body.
Cancer is caused by a multitude of factors including genetics and infections, but a majority of cancers can be attributed to environmental causes, such as smoking, and being exposed to carcinogens or radiation.
Cancer will produce symptoms that affect the organ it is located in, such as coughing and shortness of breath from a lung cancer, constipation and bloody stools from colon cancer, or headaches and cognitive problems from a brain cancer. Other cancers such as leukemia and blood cancers may produce flu-like symptoms and sudden infections. Some cancers may be discovered by physical evidence, such as feeling a lump in breast cancer.
Treatment is usually one of, or a combination of, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Newer treatments such as hormonal drugs and targeted drugs (Herceptin in breast cancer, Erbitux in colon cancer, Avastin in several) are making cancer treatment even more specific to the patient and the disease. Diagnosis is based off of physical examination and several imaging techniques such as MRI, PET scan laparoscopy and when a pathologist examines a piece of cancerous tissue.