Helpful tool allows physicians to more accurately predict parathyroid cancer recurrence

Parathyroid cancer is rare, and it is often difficult to diagnose. There is no definitive and effective medical management. The best chance of curing this devastating form of cancer is to make the diagnosis early and then surgically remove all tumor cells, avoiding spillage or spread of those tumor cells into surrounding tissue.

However, more than half of patients will develop a recurrence after the first surgical procedure, said study author Angelica Silva-Figueroa, MD, who recently completed a research fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and is now an oncological surgeon, and head and neck surgeon at RedSalud Avansalud Clinic, Chile. “Currently there has been no reliable system to predict who will recur. What is needed is a prognostic staging system for parathyroid cancer. We do not know which group of patients has an increased risk of relapse at the time of diagnosis,” Dr. Silva-Figueroa said.

For the study, researchers examined data on patients treated for parathyroid cancer between 1980 and 2016 at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. From a sample size of 68 patient records, 26 patients developed recurrent disease after a median follow up of 4.6 years.

Rather than using the traditional parameter called disease-free survival, which evaluates the effectiveness of a therapy over time, the investigators assessed recurrence-free survival. After the initial operation to remove the tumor, the recurrence-free survival rates were 85 percent at one year, 67 percent at two years, and 51 percent at 10 years.

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