Conference Coverage

Cancer patients with TKI-induced hypothyroidism had better survival rates


AT ATA 2017

– When it comes to the adverse effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), hypothyroidism appears to have a bright side, according to a retrospective cohort study among patients with nonthyroid cancers.

Relative to counterparts who remained euthyroid, overtly hypothyroid patients were 44% less likely to die after other factors were taken into account.

Dr. Trevor E. Angell an endocrinologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

Dr. Trevor E. Angell

“These data would support closer assessment in women and during the initial 6 months of treatment with each new TKI to detect incident hypothyroidism,” commented senior author Trevor E. Angell, MD, an endocrinologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, at the annual meeting of the American Thyroid Association.

Hypothyroidism may reflect changes in immune activation, Dr. Angell proposed. “Additional studies may be helpful, both prospectively looking at the clinical importance of this finding [of survival benefit], and also potentially mechanistically, to understand the relationship between hypothyroidism and survival in these patients.”

“This is an innovative study that looked at an interesting clinical question,” observed session cochair Angela M. Leung, MD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and an endocrinologist at both UCLA and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Susan London, Frontline Medical News

Dr. Angela M. Leung

“Further research is needed to confirm the findings,” she noted. “And I’d be interested to see subanalyses trying to look at the types of nonthyroidal cancers that were assessed, to determine if there were tendencies for patients with certain cancers to have a further increase in overall survival.”

Thyroid dysfunction is a well-known, common side effect of TKI therapy, Dr. Angell noted. “The possible mechanisms that have been suggested for this are direct toxicity on the thyroid gland, destructive thyroiditis, increased thyroid hormone clearance, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibition, among others.”

Some previous research has suggested a possible survival benefit of TKI-induced hypothyroidism. But “there are limitations in our understanding of hypothyroidism in this setting, including the timing of onset, what risk factors there may be, and the effect of additional clinical variables on the survival effect seen,” Dr. Angell pointed out.

He and his coinvestigators studied 538 adult patients with nonthyroid cancers (mostly stage III or IV) who received a first TKI during 2000-2013 and were followed up through 2017. They excluded those who had preexisting thyroid disease or were on thyroid-related medications.

During TKI therapy, 26.7% of patients developed overt hypothyroidism, and another 13.2% developed subclinical hypothyroidism.

“For a given drug, patients were less likely to develop hypothyroidism when they were given it subsequent to another TKI, as opposed to it being the initial TKI,” Dr. Angell reported. But median time to onset of hypothyroidism was about 2.5 months, regardless.

Cumulative months of all TKI exposure during cancer treatment were not significantly associated with development of hypothyroidism.

In a multivariate analysis, patients were significantly more likely to develop hypothyroidism if they were female (odds ratio, 1.99) and significantly less likely if they had a longer total time on treatment (OR, 0.98) or received a non-TKI VEGF inhibitor (OR, 0.43). Age, race, and cumulative TKI exposure did not influence the outcome.

In a second multivariate analysis, patients’ risk of death was significantly lower if they developed overt hypothyroidism (hazard ratio, 0.56; P less than .0001), but not if they developed subclinical hypothyroidism (HR, 0.79; P = .1655).

Treatment of hypothyroidism did not appear to influence survival, according to Dr. Angell. However, “there wasn’t a specific decision on who was treated, how they were treated, [or] when they were treated,” he said. “So, it is difficult within this cohort to look specifically at which cutoff would be ideal” for initiating treatment.

Similarly, thyroid function testing was not standardized in this retrospectively identified cohort, so it was not possible to determine how long patients were hypothyroid and whether that had an impact, according to Dr. Angell.

Dr. Angell had no relevant conflicts of interest.

Next Article: