Recombinant or endogenous thyroid-stimulating hormone for radioactive iodine therapy in thyroid cancer: state of knowledge and current controversies

Hannelore I. Coerts, Bart de Keizer, Robert J. Marlowe, Frederik A. Verburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


For patients undergoing radioiodine therapy (RIT) of differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) stimulation prior to RIT can be achieved using thyroid hormone withdrawal (THW) or administration of recombinant human TSH (rhTSH). As THW can lead to nausea, headaches, vomiting, fatigue, and dizziness secondary to transient acute hypothyroidism, rhTSH could be a good alternative. Recombinant human TSH has been administered in patients in order to stimulate TSH for RIT since 2005. According to the Martinique criteria formulated by the leading professional societies involved in care of patients with DTC, rhTSH can be applied in 3 settings: for remnant ablation, adjuvant treatment, and treatment of known disease. Numerous studies have investigated the effects of rhTSH as a method of TSH stimulation on the thyroid cell, the systemic effects, biokinetics, and clinical outcomes; however, no consensus has been reached about many aspects of its potential use. Recombinant human TSH is able to stimulate sufficient TSH levels (>30 mIU L-1) and is hypothesized to decrease risks of tumor cell proliferation. As rhTSH-use avoids the transiently impaired renal function associated with THW, radioiodine excretion is faster with the former, leading to a lower iodine-131 uptake and a difference in fractional remnant uptake, effective half-life, mean residence time, and dose to the blood. Differences between rhTSH and THW were observed in radioiodine genotoxic effects and endothelial-dependent vasodilation and inflammation. For thyroid remnant ablation, THW and rhTSH lead to similar remnant ablation rates. For adjuvant therapy and treatment of known disease, insufficient trials have been conducted and future prospective studies are recommended. The current review provides a state-of-the-science overview on the issues and debates surrounding TSH stimulation through either rhTSH adminsitration orendogenous TSH production after levothyroxin withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberlvad006
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Dutch Cancer Society (Koningin Wilhelmina Fonds/Alpe d’Huzes; grant no. 14129).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of (ESE) European Society of Endocrinology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].


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