JOURNAL ARTICLE

Small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC): a clinicopathologic study of 100 cases with surgical specimens

Siobhan A Nicholson, Mary Beth Beasley, Elizabeth Brambilla, Philip S Hasleton, Thomas V Colby, Mary N Sheppard, Roni Falk, William D Travis
American Journal of Surgical Pathology 2002, 26 (9): 1184-97
12218575
Separation of small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) from nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is a critical distinction to be made in the diagnosis of lung cancer. However, the diagnosis of SCLC is most commonly made on small biopsies and cytologic specimens, and practicing pathologists may not be familiar with all its morphologic guises and frequent combination with NSCLC elements, which may be seen in larger specimens. Following the most recent WHO classification of lung tumors and with the hope of identifying prognostic markers, we examined in detail the histology of 100 surgical biopsies or resections with a diagnosis of SCLC from the AFIP and pathology panel of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). Multiple clinical and histologic features were studied by Kaplan-Meier analysis. Neuroendocrine architectural patterns, including nested and trabecular growth, with peripheral palisading and rosette formation were common in SCLC. Necrosis and apoptotic debris was prominent in all cases, but crush artifact was infrequent. Cell size in surgical biopsy specimens appears larger than in bronchoscopic biopsy specimens and occasional cells may show prominent nucleoli and vesicular nuclear chromatin, but this does not preclude the diagnosis of SCLC. A high percentage of cases (28%) showed combinations with NSCLC, with large cell carcinoma the most common, followed by adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Because of the frequency of a few scattered large cells in SCLC, we arbitrarily recommend that at least 10% of the tumor show large cell carcinoma before subclassification as combined SC/LC. However, combined SCLC is easily recognized if the additional component consists of other NSCLC subtypes such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, so no percentage requirement is needed. Stage remained the only predictor of prognosis.

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