Importance: Initial data suggest the effectiveness of oncogene-specific targeted therapies in inducing tumor regression of diverse cancers in children and adults, with minimal adverse effects. Observations: In this review, preliminary data suggest that systemic therapy may be effective in inducing tumor regression in pediatric patients with unresectable invasive thyroid cancer. Although most pediatric patients with thyroid cancer initially present with operable disease, some children have extensive disease that poses substantial surgical challenges and exposes them to higher than usual risk of operative complications. Extensive disease includes thyroid cancer that invades the trachea or esophagus or encases vascular or neural structures. Previous efforts to manage extensive thyroid cancer focused on surgery with near-curative intent. With the recent development of oncogene-specific targeted therapies that are effective in inducing tumor regression, with minimal drug-associated adverse effects, there is an opportunity to consider incorporating these agents as neoadjuvant therapy. In patients with morbidly invasive regional metastasis or with hypoxia associated with extensive pulmonary metastasis, neoadjuvant therapy can be incorporated to induce tumor regression before surgery and radioactive iodine therapy. For patients with widely invasive medullary thyroid cancer, in whom the risk of surgical complications is high and the likelihood of surgical remission is low, these agents may replace surgery depending on the response to therapy and long-term tolerance. Conclusions and Relevance: With oncogene-specific targeted therapy that is associated with substantial tumor regression and low risk of adverse reactions, there appears to be an opportunity to include children with advanced invasive thyroid cancer in clinical trials exploring neoadjuvant targeted oncogene therapy before or instead of surgery.
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