Innovation

New Thyroid Cancer Test Reduces Unnecessary Surgeries

A faster and more accurate test to diagnose thyroid cancer may soon be available. Researchers discovered a new approach that allowed them to identify the condition using the molecular fingerprint of the disease. 

The new study, published in the journal PNAS, suggests the potential thyroid cancer test could help prevent unnecessary surgeries in the future. Thyroid removal requires patients to take hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives.

"If we could prevent people from having surgery they don't need and enable them to have a more precise diagnosis, we can improve treatment for patients and lower costs for the healthcare system," Livia Eberlin, co-senior study author and an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin, said. 

Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found under the Adam's apple. It plays an important role in the body, supporting the endocrine system and the production of hormones that control metabolic rate, heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure.

To create the new thyroid cancer test, researchers used a mass spectrometry imaging to make a molecular profile or fingerprint of the disease. This allows them to observe metabolites, or chemical byproducts, of cancer cell activity.

The team tested the tool with 68 people who underwent the biopsy procedure called fine needle aspiration (FNA), which is currently used to diagnose thyroid cancer. However, FNA is known for providing inconclusive results, Medical News Today reported Friday

Comparing the results of the tests, researchers found that the newly created approach that used cancer’s molecular fingerprint provided false-positive results in one in 10 cases only. It is also faster and two-thirds more accurate than FNA. 

Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis in US

The number of people being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has been growing since 1992 in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). FNA is one of the common tests used to determine the disease.

It involves removing some thyroid tissue for lab tests. However, the tests are inconclusive, one in five results failing to determine the presence of cancer cells. 

Another option is genetic test. But similar to FNA, it also has high rates of false-positive results. 

Researchers plan to conduct another study with a larger group of participants, focusing on the accuracy of the new thyroid cancer test. The team said the next trials would involve 1,000 people in Australia, Brazil and the U.S. and run for two years. 

"With this next generation test we can provide thyroid cancer diagnoses faster and with more precision than current techniques — this will be the new state-of-the-art," James Suliburk, co-senior study author and an associate professor and chief of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said. "We are able to do this analysis directly on the FNA sample and much more rapidly than the current process, which could take between 3 and 30 days.”

Thyroid Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found under the Adam's apple, which support the endocrine system and the production of hormones that control metabolic rate, heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Pixabay

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