JOURNAL ARTICLE

Pulmonary neuroendocrine carcinomas. A review of 234 cases and a statistical analysis of 50 cases treated at one institution using a simple clinicopathologic classification

Qin Huang, Alona Muzitansky, Eugene J Mark
Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine 2002, 126 (5): 545-53
11958659

CONTEXT: Primary pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are traditionally classified into 3 major types: typical carcinoid (TC), atypical carcinoid (AC), and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LC) or small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (SC). Confusion arises frequently regarding the malignant nature of TC and the morphologic differentiation between AC and LC or SC.

OBJECTIVE: To provide clinicopathologic evidence to streamline and clarify the histomorphologic criteria for this group of tumors, emphasizing the prognostic implications.

PATIENTS: To minimize variability in diagnostic criteria and treatment plans, we analyzed a group of patients whose diagnosis and treatment occurred at a single institution. We reviewed 234 cases of primary pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors and thoroughly studied 50 cases of resected tumors from 1986 to 1995.

RESULTS: On the basis of morphologic characteristics and biologic behaviors of the tumors, we agree with many previous investigators that these tumors are all malignant and potentially aggressive. Based on our accumulated data, we have modified Gould criteria and reclassified these tumors into 5 types: (1) well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma (otherwise called TC) (14 cases, with less than 1 mitosis per 10 high-power fields [HPF] with or without minimal necrosis); (2) moderately differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma (otherwise called low-grade AC) (6 cases, with less than 10 mitoses per 10 HPF and necrosis evident at high magnification); (3) poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma (otherwise called high-grade AC) (10 cases, with more than 10 mitoses per 10 HPF and necrosis evident at low-power magnification); (4) undifferentiated LC (5 cases, with more than 30 mitoses per 10 HPF and marked necrosis); and (5) undifferentiated SC (15 cases, with more than 30 mitoses per 10 HPF and marked necrosis). The 5-year survival rates were 93%, 83%, 70%, 60%, and 40% for well, moderately, and poorly differentiated, and undifferentiated large cell and small cell neuroendocrine carcinomas, respectively. We found nodal metastasis in 28% of TC in this retrospective review, a figure higher than previously recorded.

CONCLUSION: Using a grading system and terms comparable to those used for many years and used for neuroendocrine tumors elsewhere in the body, we found that classification of pulmonary neuroendocrine carcinomas as well, moderately, poorly differentiated, or undifferentiated provides prognostic information and avoids misleading terms and concepts. This facilitates communication between pathologists and clinicians and thereby improves diagnosis and management of the patient.

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