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The Role of Cabozantinib in Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Thyroid cancer, though less common than other cancers, has been increasing in incidence over the past few decades. Among the types of thyroid cancer, differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) and medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) are the most prevalent. While many cases of thyroid cancer can be treated effectively with the help of surgery and radioactive iodine, there are instances where the disease becomes resistant to conventional treatments. This is where targeted therapies, such as Cabozantinib tablet, come into play.

Understanding Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid cancer arises from the thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the neck and produces hormones that regulate metabolism. The primary types of thyroid cancer include:

  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer (PTC): The most common type, accounting for roughly 80% of cases.
  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer (FTC): Comprises an estimated 10 to 15% of cases.
  • Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC): Makes up an estimated 3 to 4% of cases and originates from parafollicular cells (C cells) of the thyroid.
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (ATC): A rare and aggressive form, accounting for less than 2% of cases.

While PTC and FTC are often treated successfully with surgery and radioactive iodine, MTC and ATC are more challenging to treat due to their aggressive nature and resistance to conventional therapies.

Introduction to Cabozantinib:

Cabozantinib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) that targets multiple receptors involved in tumor growth and angiogenesis, including VEGFR, MET, and RET. Initially approved for the treatment of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), Cabozantinib has shown promise in managing other forms of advanced thyroid cancers that are refractory to standard treatments.

Mechanism of Action:

Cabozantinib works by inhibiting the activity of several tyrosine kinases that play crucial roles in tumor cell proliferation, survival, and the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis). By targeting these pathways, Cabozantinib tablet can reduce tumor growth and spread.

  • VEGFR Inhibition: VEGFR (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor) is crucial for angiogenesis, the process through which new blood vessels form to supply nutrients and oxygen to tumors. Cabozantinib blocks VEGFR, thereby inhibiting angiogenesis and effectively starving the tumor of necessary resources.
  • MET and RET Inhibition: MET and RET are proto-oncogenes involved in cell proliferation, survival, and migration. Abnormal activation of these genes can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. By inhibiting MET and RET, Cabozantinib interferes with the pathways that drive cancer progression, particularly in medullary thyroid cancer where RET mutations are common.

Clinical Evidence and Efficacy:

The efficacy of Cabozantinib in thyroid cancer, especially medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), has been demonstrated in various clinical trials. One significant study is the phase III EXAM trial, which evaluated Cabozantinib in patients with progressive, metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. The results showed that the therapeutic drug significantly enhanced progression-free survival (PFS) compared to placebo.

  • Progression-Free Survival (PFS): Patients treated with Cabozantinib had a median PFS of 11.2 months compared to 4.0 months for those on placebo.
  • Response Rate (RR): The objective response rate (ORR) was 28% for Cabozantinib versus 0% for placebo, indicating that a significant portion of patients experienced tumor shrinkage.

These results led to the approval of Cabozantinib for the treatment of progressive, metastatic medullary thyroid cancer, offering a new option for patients with this challenging disease.

Expanded Use in Differentiated Thyroid Cancer:

Recent research has explored the potential of Cabozantinib in treating other forms of thyroid cancer, including radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC). In a phase II trial, the drug showed promising results in patients with advanced DTC who had progressed after prior treatment.

  • Progression-Free Survival (PFS): The study reported a median PFS of 15.1 months, indicating that Cabozantinib could significantly delay disease progression in this patient population.
  • Overall Response Rate (ORR): The ORR was approximately 40%, with a substantial number of patients achieving partial responses.

These findings suggest that Cabozantinib may be beneficial for a broader range of thyroid cancer patients beyond those with medullary thyroid cancer.

Side Effects and Management:

As with any cancer therapy, Cabozantinib tablet is associated with potential side effects. Common adverse effects include diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, and hypertension. More serious but less common side effects can include hemorrhage, gastrointestinal perforations, and thromboembolic events.

Management of these side effects is crucial to ensure patients can continue treatment. Strategies include dose reduction, supportive care measures such as antiemetics for nausea, antihypertensives for blood pressure control, and regular monitoring for early detection of severe complications.


Cabozantinib represents a significant advancement in the treatment of thyroid cancer, particularly for patients with medullary thyroid cancer and those with advanced, radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer. By targeting key pathways involved in tumor growth and angiogenesis, Cabozantinib can effectively resist disease progression and shrink tumors, providing hope for those who have limited treatment options.

As ongoing research continues to explore the full potential of Cabozantinib tablet in various thyroid cancer subtypes and other malignancies, it underscores the importance of targeted therapies in modern oncology. For patients and clinicians alike, Cabozantinib offers a promising therapeutic option in the fight against thyroid cancer, bringing us one step closer to more effective and personalized cancer care.


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