What's in a Name: Expert Re-Examines Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma's Classification as Cancer

Encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer may actually not be cancer at all, according to Yuri E. Nikiforov.
BY BRIELLE URCIUOLI @Brielle_U
PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
The word “cancer” undoubtedly triggers a negative psychological effect when uttered to patients. However, according to a recent study led by Yuri E. Nikiforov, M.D, Ph.D, 10 to 20 percent of patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer may not actually have cancer.
 
Nikiforov, the vice chair of the Department of Pathology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, presented his findings at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association, claiming that encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer (EFVPTC) should not be classified as a type of cancer.
 
CURE sat down with Nikiforov to further discuss his study.

What are you presenting on here at the meeting?

I'm presenting the results of a study that we recently published in JAMA Oncology which allowed us to reclassify one type of thyroid cancer as non-cancer. We know that there is a certain type of thyroid cancer that was known as cancer for many years that is actually very indolent and doesn’t often hurt patients. 
 
When we analyzed a number of large series of patients and followed them for many years, we concluded that most of these patients really live a normal life and never get any adverse outcomes from the cancer. So as a result, it's being suggested to remove the term "cancer" from the name of this tumor and reclassify this tumor as non-invasive follicular tumor — NIFTP. So patients will no longer be labeled with the term "cancer." 
 

How did you come to realize that it might not actually be cancer? What characteristics make up cancer?

 
Until recently, this type of tumor was known as encapsulated follicular papillary cancer. We have estimated that approximately 10 to 20 percent of all patients are diagnosed with this, so this reclassification will affect approximately 10,000 people every year in the United States. 
 


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