New combinatorial drug strategies are urgently needed to improve radioiodide (RAI) uptake and efficiently ablate thyroid cancer cells, thereby addressing recurrent and metastatic disease. Cellular iodide uptake is accomplished solely by the sodium iodide symporter (NIS), but the complexity of NIS functional regulation and a lack of amenable high-throughput screening assays has impeded progress. We utilised mutated yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) as a surrogate biosensor of intracellular iodide for ∼1200 FDA-approved drugs, allowing us to appraise the impact of 73 leading compounds at 10 doses on 125I uptake in thyroid cancer cell lines. Subsequent mechanistic analysis suggests three predominant modes of drug action: Firstly, a number of drugs inhibited specific regulation of NIS function by the protein VCP. Secondly, some drugs enhanced transcriptional or post-transcriptional regulation of NIS expression. Thirdly, several drugs strongly implicated proteasomal degradation and the unfolded protein response in the cellular processing of NIS. Exploiting these mechanistic insights, multiple compounds gave striking increases in radioiodide uptake when combined with the drug SAHA. Importantly, our new drug combination strategies were also effective in human primary thyrocytes, suggesting they target endogenous NIS physiology. In patients with papillary thyroid cancer, genes involved in proteostasis were remarkably altered and predicted significantly worse outcome, but only in those patients who received RAI therapy. Collectively, we therefore propose a new model of intracellular NIS processing, and identify key nodes which may now be druggable in patients with aggressive thyroid cancer.