The Thyroid cancer Survivor’s Association announced the award of six new research grants for thyroid cancer. The grants are heavily weighted to benefit patients with advanced thyroid cancer. Although advanced thyroid cancer is a worthy cause that is much in need of research dollars, the fact remains that only two out of the six grants may help with the much publicized problems of thyroid cancer overdiagnosis and over treatment. These two grants may have applications for risk stratification of patients which could potentially help these lower risk patients to avoid being subjected to unnecessary interventions.
Given that the vast majority of thyroid cancer patients are low to intermediate risk following surgery with very low recurrence rates, it seems fair and ethical for THYCA to award more money and to pay more attention to efforts which would mitigate the widespread over treatment of these patients. Thyca’s less than enthusiastic response in handling the NIFTP reclassification may indicate a reluctance to address this pressing problem.
The new profile for the typical case of thyroid cancer is a middle aged woman with a microcarcinoma, as was found in this study from Hughes et al in 2011. These cases are also among those which are the least likely to benefit from aggressive interventions such as total thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine.
Although funding research for Advanced thyroid cancers is an eminently worthy cause, it is troubling that a situation analougous to “robbing Peter to pay Paul” has been allowed to develop within the primary organization for Thyroid cancer survivors in the United States.