The U-M Multidisciplinary Endocrine Oncology Program: A Destination for the Treatment of Adrenal and Thyroid Tumors

U-M is home to one of the only fully-integrated, multidisciplinary clinics for thyroid and adrenal patients in the world. Established in 2005 as part of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, the program is led by Gary D. Hammer, M.D., Ph.D. and includes experts in endocrine surgery, endocrinology, oncology, nuclear medicine, pathology, radiation oncology, genetic counseling and more. U-M’s comprehensive approach also includes a wide variety of support services to ensure that the needs of both the patient and the family are addressed. 

Our clinicians specialize in endocrine cancer genetics and the treatment of adrenal conditions including Cushing syndrome, Conn syndrome (first described at U-M in 1954), other forms of primary aldosteronism, pheochromocytoma, as well as multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and thyroid cancer.  

Based on both its clinical and research expertise, the Multidisciplinary Endocrine Oncology Program is known around the world as a center of excellence in the treatment of adrenal cancer. On three separate occasions, Michigan has been chosen as the site for the International Symposia on Adrenal Cancer including the upcoming symposium in October 2015. The U-M adrenal oncology team treats this rare and lethal cancer aggressively with state-of-the-art techniques, consistently pursuing new therapies to provide patients with the best care possible and best chances for survival.

Learn more about our individualized approach to treating adrenal cancer here.

The U-M thyroid oncology team evaluates and treats all forms of thyroid cancer, both sporadic and hereditary. Most thyroid cancer patients do well with standard therapies including surgery, radioiodine, external beam radiation therapy and FDA-approved targeted chemotherapies. For patients whose disease progresses despite these strategies, we employ off-label treatments, novel therapeutics and clinical trials that offer the best hope of improved survival.

Learn more about our individualized approach to treating thyroid cancer here.

Endocrine Research and Clinical Trials

At the heart of the U-M Multidisciplinary Endocrine Oncology Program is an aggressive basic, clinical and translational research portfolio, affording patients access to the latest clinical trials – many available in only a handful of institutions in the world, and several originating here at U-M:

  • Research from the Hammer lab has led to the launch of a company that is advancing translational research on a potential new oral drug for adrenal cancer, ATR-101. The drug is currently being tested in a phase 1 trial at U-M and other centers.
  • U-M is the lead institution in a multi-center trial of the drug pioglitazone to treat follicular thyroid cancer or the follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer. Patients’ tumors are screened for a specific gene mutation susceptible to the drug. Unlike other chemotherapies, pioglitazone has extremely low toxicity.
  • U-M participates in large international trials of therapies to treat advanced radioiodine refractory thyroid cancer, such as the DECISION trial which ultimately led to FDA approval of sorafenib for metastatic differentiated thyroid cancers.
  • In addition to those mentioned above, the Endocrine Oncology clinical research team offers several other clinical trials for adrenal and thyroid cancers.
  • U-M basic science investigators are working to translate natural product compounds called withanolides into novel therapeutics for future clinical trials in thyroid and adrenal malignancies. 
  • The U-M Endocrine Oncology Program has demonstrated success in fostering collaborative efforts between institutional and international teams of investigators.  An example is our integral involvement in three collaborative endocrine cancer projects through The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a program of the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, which aims to characterize and analyze the genome of specific tumors. Because of these collaborations, TCGA agreed to include adrenal cancer, phenochromocytoma and thyroid cancer in their genomic platform. 
  • A recent comprehensive analysis of thyroid cancer from the TCGA identified markers of aggressive tumors, which could allow for better targeting of appropriate treatments to individual patients. This research suggests that reclassifying thyroid cancer based on genetic markers could move the disease into a position to benefit more from precision medicine. A similar adrenal cancer project is nearing completion. 
  • In addition to the treatment of endocrine tumors, U-M was also home to the first two completed phase 1 studies of new drugs to treat congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a rare grouping of genetic disorders that inhibit the production of key hormones, notably cortisol, resulting in growth and development problems in children.
  • The U-M Endocrine Oncology Program is also working to establish the tools vital to advancing endocrine research here and around the world. We have established the Michigan Endocrine Oncology Repository (MEOR) to house an endocrine tissue bank consisting of frozen tissues and other specimens and a database of corresponding pathology, patient data and microarray blocks.

To consult with an endocrine specialist or to refer a patient, call M-Line 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week at 800-962-3555.