Anaplastic thyroid cancer: How far can we go?

Main Article Content

Mariana Amaral
Ricardo A. Afonso
Maria Manuela Gaspar
Catarina Pinto Reis


Globally, thyroid cancer accounts for 2 % of all cancer diagnoses, and can be classified as well-differentiated or undifferentiated. Currently, differentiated thyroid carcinomas have good prognoses, and can be treated with a combination of therapies, including surgical thyroidectomy, radioactive iodine therapy and hormone-based therapy. On the other hand, anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, a subtype of undifferentiated thyroid carcinoma characterized by the loss of thyroid-like phenotype and function, does not respond to either radioactive iodine or hormone therapies. In most cases, anaplastic thyroid carcinomas are diagnosed in later stages of the disease, deeming them inoperable, and showing poor response rates to systemic chemotherapy. Recently, treatment courses using multiple-target agents are being explored and clinical trials have shown very promising results, such as overall survival rates, progression-free survival and tumor shrinkage. This review is focused on thyroid carcinomas, with particular focus on anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, exploring its undifferentiated nature. Special interest will be given to the treatment approaches currently available and respective obstacles or drawbacks. Our purpose is to contribute to understand why this malignancy presents low responsiveness to current treatments, while overviewing novel therapies and clinical trials.

Article Details

How to Cite
Amaral, M., Afonso, R. A., Gaspar, M. M., & Reis, C. P. (2020). Anaplastic thyroid cancer: How far can we go?. EXCLI Journal, 19, 800-812.
Review articles
Author Biographies

Ricardo A. Afonso, CEDOC, NOVA Medical School | Faculdade de Ciências Médicas (NMS/FCM), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal; Área de Ensino e Investigação em Ciências Funcionais e Alvos Terapêuticos, NOVA Medical School, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas (NMS|FCM), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal; Departamento de Física, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal

Education/Academic qualification

Basic studies in Medicine, Bachelor, Universidade de Lisboa

Medicine, Master, Universidade de Lisboa

Pharmacology & Therapeutics

2003 → 2004

External positions

President, Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL)

2017 → 2021

Vice-President, Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL)

2014 → 2016

Secretary, Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL)

2009 → 2013

Maria Manuela Gaspar, Research Institute for Medicines (iMed.ULisboa), Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal.

Manuela Gaspar is a team member of the NanoBBB. The research has been focused on design, development and biological evaluation of drug delivery systems for improving the therapeutic index of incorporated molecules in infectious, inflammatory and cancer animal models. Design and characterization of appropriated delivery systems for different routes of administration namely pulmonary, intranasal and parenteral. In vitro and in vivo evaluation of developed nanoformulations. In vitro and in vivo screening of new synthesized molecules with antitumor activity.


Catarina Pinto Reis, Research Institute for Medicines (iMed.ULisboa), Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal, E-mail:; IBEB, Institute of Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

Catarina Pinto Reis is currently Professor at Faculty of Pharmacy (University of Lisbon). She is a member of Imed-ULisboa and collaborator at IBEB (FCUL) research group. She is also an external consultant of Infarmed.

During 2007 to Feb 2017, she was Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology I/II and Drug Delivery Systems in the School of Sciences and Health Technologies at the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias (Lisbon, Portugal).

She attended the University of Coimbra (Coimbra, Portugal) and graduated in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her doctoral studies were also undertaken at the University of Coimbra with several important international collaborations where she developed an interest in advanced drug delivery systems. Those studies have been recognized through a number of national prizes. She finished her PhD in Pharmacy in 2008 as Distinguished Honor Graduate.

Since then, she has continued to work in the design and evaluation of nanoparticles and microparticles for peptide drug delivery. She is author or co-author of several articles, book chapters and inventor of patents.