The following article features coverage from the American Thyroid Association (ATA) 2018 meeting. Click here to read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Molecular testing could help some patients who have fine-needle aspiration (FNA) findings of suspicious for malignancy (SFM) avoid unnecessary treatment, according to a study presented at the 88th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association in Washington, D.C.1

SFM is a category of the Bethesda system that indicates that a thyroid nodule biopsy is likely to be cancerous, but the results are inadequate for a definitive diagnosis. This occurs in 1% to 6% of biopsies, and the estimated risk of thyroid cancer in these samples is 60% to 75%. The American Thyroid Association guideline recommends using molecular testing as an option to further characterize nodules classified as SFM, although excision is the standard of care.

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The aim of this study was to provide an updated estimate of malignancy risk in patients whose biopsies are categorized as SFM. This study was a single-center, retrospective chart review that included patients with a FNA result of SFM received between 2007 and 2018.

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The study found the malignancy rate in this cohort was similar to previous estimates. The authors noted, however, that molecular testing identified benign disease in approximately 17% of patients. The authors indicated that these data suggest that molecular testing could help some patients “avoid thyroidectomies, and related complications and lifelong replacement therapy.”

The results from this study call for “a more conservative approach for patients with thyroid nodules that belong to the cytologically indeterminate SFM category,” the authors concluded.

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s coverage of the ATA 2018 meeting by visiting the conference page.


  1. Patel B, Izquierdo R, Khurana K, Bansal N. Incidence of thyroid cancer in patients with cytological diagnosis of ‘‘suspicious for malignancy.” Presented at: the 88th Annual Meeting of the American Thyroid Association; Washington, D.C.: October 3-7, 2018. Abstract poster 46.