Removal of lymph nodes during surgery for thyroid cancer may be beneficial

December 20, 2011

Papillary thyroid cancer accounts for the majority of all thyroid malignancies, which primarily impact women. A new study indicates that routinely removing lymph nodes in the neck in these cancer patients may help prevent the disease from coming back.

When thyroid cancer metastasizes, lymph nodes in the neck may be affected, but these lymph-node tumors can be tiny and may not be detected by ultrasounds done before surgery to remove the diseased thyroid -- or even during the procedure itself.

In an international academic study published in the December issue of the journal Surgery, UCLA researchers and colleagues demonstrate that routine removal of neck lymph nodes during initial thyroid surgery for papillary cancer may lead to lower disease recurrence rates and lower levels of thyroglobulin, a thyroid tumor marker that can be an indicator of disease when elevated.

Although it is standard procedure in some cancer centers, there has been debate in the worldwide surgical community about the benefits of routinely removing neck lymph nodes, a procedure known as prophylactic central neck lymph-node dissection, or CLND.

"We found that re-operation rates due to cancer were lower in patients who had routine removal of these lymph nodes, which suggests a more thorough surgical clearance of disease," said the study's senior author, Dr. Michael Yeh, an associate professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our findings may help add to growing evidence that this additional procedure, performed during initial thyroid surgery, may be helpful in management of papillary thyroid cancer."

For the study, researchers examined data on 606 patients who received care in one of three endocrine surgical units in the U.S., England and Australia. Patients were divided into two groups: Group A patients had undergone total thyroid removal alone; Group B patients had undergone both thyroid removal and dissection of central neck lymph nodes. Patients were followed for an average of three-and-a-half years following surgery.

The standard pre-operative evaluation of all patients included a fine-needle biopsy of the primary thyroid tumor and determination of neck lymph-node disease status through physical examination and ultrasound of the neck.

The rate of disease recurrence in the entire study population was 6.9 percent. The researchers found that the need for central neck re-operation was significantly lower among patients who had undergone the routine initial central neck lymph-node dissection, compared with those who had undergone only thyroid removal (1.5 percent vs. 6.1 percent).

Stimulated thyroglobulin levels were also lower among patients in Group B, which may demonstrate a more thorough clearing of disease in the patients who had both thyroid and neck lymph-node removal procedures, the researchers said.

"This significant reduction in the need for further surgery in the critical central area of the neck is important, since it reduces risk to the many vital structures housed here, such as the nerves supplying the voice," said study co-author Dr. Mark Sywak of the University of Sydney in Australia.

UCLA's Yeh noted that blood thyroglobulin levels are a useful and sensitive measure in tracking disease recurrence, especially when many tumors in this area are too tiny to be detected using a physical exam or ultrasound.

Rates of temporarily low calcium levels, a common side effect, were significantly higher in Group B patients (9.7 percent), who had neck lymph nodes removed, than in Group A patients (4.1 percent) who had thyroid-removal surgery alone. The rate of long-term complications was low for both groups -- about 1 percent.

The researchers said the next step may be to conduct a prospective, randomized clinical trial to further assess the impact of routinely removing central neck lymph nodes during initial surgery for papillary thyroid cancer.
-end-
The study took place at UCLA Medical Center; the University of Sydney, Australia; and Hammersmith Hospital at Imperial College London.

Other study authors included Aleksandra Popadich, James C. Lee, Stan Sidhu, Leigh Delbridge and Mark Sywak from the University of Sydney endocrine surgical unit; Olga Levin and Kevin Ro, both students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA;

Stephanie Smooke-Praw from the department of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine; Maisam Fazel, Asit Arora, Neil S. Tolley and F. Fausto Palazzo from the department of thyroid and endocrine surgery at Hammersmith Hospital in London; and Diana L. Learoyd from the department of endocrinology at Royal North Shore Hospital in New South Wales, Australia.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.