Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Pathway Inhibition for Redifferentiation of Radioiodine Refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer: An Evolving Protocol

Amir Iravani, Benjamin Solomon, David A. Pattison, Price Jackson, Aravind Ravi Kumar, Grace Kong, Michael S. Hofman, Tim Akhurst, Rodney J. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Some patients with metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) lack iodine avidity and are therefore unsuitable for radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy. Limited experience suggests that single-agent selective mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway inhibitors can restore expression of the sodium-iodide symporter rendering RAI refractory (RAIR) DTC patients amenable to RAI therapy. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of mutation-guided MAPK-pathway blockade combined with thyroid hormone withdrawal (THW) for redifferentiation. Methods: This is a retrospective review of metastatic RAIR DTC and driver mutation in MAPK pathway, treated on a redifferentiation protocol. All patients had metastatic disease that had never been RAI-avid and/or imaging and biochemical progression despite treatment with RAI within the past 12 months. Patients with tumors harboring an NRAS mutation were treated with an MEK inhibitor (trametinib), and tumors with a BRAFV600E mutation with combined BRAF and MEK inhibition (dabrafenib and trametinib; or vemurafenib and cobimetinib) for four weeks. Thyrotropin stimulation was performed by THW for four weeks. Restoration of RAI uptake was determined by 124I positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging. The response was assessed at least three months post-RAI. Results: From 2015 to 2017, six patients (age 45-70, four females) received redifferentiation therapy. Three patients had an NRAS mutation; two with follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC) and one with a poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma (PDTC); and three patients had a BRAFV600E mutation and papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). One NRAS and all BRAFV600E mutation cases demonstrated restoration of RAI uptake and proceeded to RAI therapy with a median follow-up of 16.6 months (range 13.5-42.3 months). The patient with an NRAS mutation and two of three patients with a BRAFV600E demonstrated partial imaging response beyond a three-month follow-up. Grade 3 adverse events (acneiform rash) were observed in two patients with NRAS mutations. Conclusions: Mutation-guided MAPK pathway inhibition with MEK inhibitor or a combination of BRAF inhibitor and MEK inhibitor under concurrent THW is a feasible and a promising strategy to redifferentiate RAIR DTC, thereby rendering them suitable for RAI therapy with satisfactory retention following treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1634-1645
Number of pages12
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • BRAF inhibitor
  • MAPK inhibitor
  • MEK inhibitor
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor
  • radioiodine refractory thyroid cancer
  • radioiodine therapy


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