New clinical trial studies the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab in patients with medullary thyroid cancer


A new clinical trial studies how the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab affects patients whose medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) has returned or spread to other areas of the body. MTC starts in the middle layers of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid produces hormones essential for proper health and development. Current treatment for MTC is surgery for localized disease and targeted molecular therapies for metastatic disease, although the latter are often associated with side effects.

Immunotherapy could be a promising new approach to treating MTC, and this is the second study at NCI to use this technique for MTC. Ravi Madan, M.D., of the Genitourinary Malignancies Branch is leading a new study in which pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor, blocks a protective mechanism on cancer cells, allowing the immune system to target and kill those cancer cells. The study design is enrolling minimally symptomatic patients who have not been treated with vandetanib or cabozantonib. For more information on this trial, visit: https://ccr.cancer.gov/genitourinary-malignancies-branch/ravi-a-madan.

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Summary Posted: 06/2017