Recently it has become possible to identify persons who have multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndrome types 2A and 2B based on the presence of missense mutations in the RET protooncogene. Kindred members who have inherited these syndromes can be identified before clinical or biochemical evidence of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) develops, the malignancy that occurs in all affected patients. It is not known whether prophylactic removal of the thyroid gland early in childhood, based on a positive genetic test result, has a better clinical outcome than that associated with thyroidectomy after MTC is diagnosed clinically or biochemically. The authors' goal was to determine the long-term outcome for patients with MEN 2A and 2B who had thyroidectomy for MTC during childhood. These results were compared with those of patients who had prophylactic removal of the thyroid gland after the genetic diagnosis of MEN 2A was established. The hospital records of 49 children with MEN 2A or 2B were reviewed. Each patient had thyroidectomy for MTC before 16 years of age. The mean age at the time of operation was 10 years, and the mean follow-up period for those who had surgery before the availability of direct DNA genetic testing was 9.8 years. The indications for surgery included an elevated basal or stimulated plasma calcitonin level, a positive genetic test result, a thyroid mass, family history of MTC, or a phenotype diagnostic of MEN 2B. All children for whom the diagnosis of MEN 2A was established by direct genetic testing had thyroidectomy within the last 2 years. Of the 11 patients with MEN 2B who underwent thyroidectomy during childhood, 10 had MTC, and only 3 (27%) remain free of disease after the mean follow-up period of 11 years. One patient died, and seven are alive with persistent MTC. Among the 24 patients with MEN 2A who had their thyroid glands removed because of a family history of MTC or because of biochemical evidence of the disease, 5 (21%) have persistent or recurrent MTC after the mean follow-up period of 9.3 years. In four of these, the MTC was confined to the thyroid gland at the time of thyroidectomy. Of the 14 children who had thyroidectomy based on direct DNA testing, MTC was present in 11. Only four had elevated levels of stimulated plasma calcitonin before surgery. None had lymph node metastasis or surgical complications. The authors conclude that a significant number of patients with MEN 2A or 2B who undergo thyroidectomy in childhood for MTC have persistent or recurrent disease long-term. The genetic diagnosis of patients with these syndromes may allow for prophylactic surgery before the development of biochemical or clinical evidence of MTC. This approach is safe, but longer clinical follow-up will be necessary to confirm that MTC has been cured.
View details for Web of Science ID A1996TR13500034
View details for PubMedID 8632274