Treatment Regimen from Chernobyl Can Inform Doctors in Fukushima

According to German researchers, children from Belarus who developed thyroid cancer caused by the 1986 nuclear blast at Chernobyl have responded very well to an established regimen, potentially giving hope to survivors of the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident in 2011.

According to Christoph Reiners, MD, of the University of Wurzburg in Germany, and colleagues, out of over 200 children who were treated with a combination of surgical resection, iodine-131 therapy, and suppressive levothyroxine, 64 percent achieved complete remission, 30 percent had near-complete remission, and just five percent experienced partial remission. These results come after a median 11 year follow-up.

Only two recurrences were reported after partial remissions, and no patients died from thyroid cancer. That said, one patient did die from complications from the radioiodine therapy (advanced pulmonary fibrosis) 19 years after the initial diagnosis.

Their findings have been published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The authors wrote that:

Despite the unfavorable prognostic characteristics of our patients and their often suboptimal initial care, final treatment results after application of the state-of-the-art radioiodine therapy protocols were very good.

The 1986 explosion at Chernobyl released enormous amounts of radioactive cesium and iodine into the atmosphere and over the former states of the Soviet Union such as Belarus. The iodine release specifically is believed to have led to an elevated risk of thyroid cancer in younger people. The 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan is believed to have created a comparable public health problem. Investigators therefore believe that this study could help doctors who will be treating those victims of the 2011 fall-out.

Source: MedPage Today

Photo: "Combat Vehicle at the Militia Station," Timm Suess

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