Traditionally available treatments, like cytotoxic chemotherapy and external-beam radiation therapy, are limited and essentially ineffective for metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). In the last decade, small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) have been introduced in the field of thyroid cancer, after having been shown effective in a wide variety of other tumors. This review focuses on vandetanib (ZD6474, Zactima™; AstraZeneca) and its role in the treatment of MTC. Vandetanib is an oral TKI that targets VEGF receptors 2 and 3, RET, and at higher concentrations, the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor. This drug has been tested in two important phase II studies which demonstrated that both the 100 and 300 mg/day dosage of vandetanib have antitumor activity on advanced MTC. A phase III trial (ZETA trial) evaluating vandetanib in 331 patients with locally advanced or metastatic MTC showed a significant prolongation of PFS for patients receiving vandetanib compared with placebo. Toxicity surveillance in all studies reported high rates of adverse effects with diarrhea, rash, fatigue and nausea being the most commonly experienced by patients. Vandetanib is currently approved in the United States for unresectable locally advanced or metastatic MTC and has become a new standard of care in this rare and indolent pathology.
Keywords: vandetanib, medullary thyroid cancer, RET mutation, VEFGR