Thymic sarcomatoid carcinoma with skeletal muscle differentiation: report of two cases, one with cytogenetic analysis

T Eimoto, M Kitaoka, H Ogawa, H Niwa, T Murase, H Tateyama, H Inagaki, T Soji, H J Wang
Histopathology 2002, 40 (1): 46-57

AIMS: Malignant thymic tumour histologically resembling a soft tissue sarcoma is extremely rare and defined as sarcomatoid carcinoma in the recent World Health Organization (WHO) classification. We report two such cases in which the tumour cells showed a prominent rhabdomyoblastic differentiation and analyse whether these tumours retain an epithelial nature at least in part.

METHODS AND RESULTS: One tumour occurred in a 51-year-old man (Case 1) and the other in a 40-year-old woman (Case 2). Microscopically, both tumours consisted essentially of two types of tumour cells: spindle and large round cells, with no apparent epithelial components. Osteosarcomatous small foci were also found in Case 2. Immunohistochemically, desmin and muscle-specific actin were positive in the majority of both types of tumour cells, whereas myogenin was predominant in the spindle cells and myoglobin in the large round cells. Some of both types of cells expressed cytokeratin with co-expression of myoglobin in the large round cells, but with no myogenin in the spindle cells. Some cytokeratin-positive spindle cells were also negative for desmin. Ultrastructural examination of a recurrent tumour in Case 2 revealed some epithelial features among the spindle cells. Cytogenetic study of the same tumour showed a complex abnormality including der(16)t(1;16)(q12;q12.1), an identical pattern previously reported in a case of thymic squamous cell carcinoma.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the definition in the WHO classification of sarcomatoid carcinoma that includes purely sarcomatous tumour as in the present cases. Occurrence of this type of tumour may indicate a relationship between thymic epithelial cells and myoid cells and/or a potential for divergent differentiation in thymic epithelial tumours.

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