Medullary thyroid carcinoma and biomarkers: Past, present and future
The clinical management of patients with persistent or recurrent medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is still under debate, because these patients either have a long-term survival, due to an indolent course of the disease, or develop rapidly progressing disease leading to death from distant metastases. At this moment, it cannot be predicted what will happen within most individual cases. Biomarkers, indicators which can be measured objectively, can be helpful in MTC diagnosis, molecular imaging and treatment, and/or identification of MTC progression. Several MTC biomarkers are already implemented in the daily management of MTC patients. More research is being aimed at the improvement of molecular imaging techniques and the development of molecular systemic therapies. Recent discoveries, like the prognostic value of plasma calcitonin and carcino-embryonic antigen doubling-time and the presence of somatic RET mutations in MTC tissue, may be useful tools in clinical decision making in the future. In this review, we provide an overview of different MTC biomarkers and their applications in the clinical management of MTC patients.