Solid pattern yolk sac tumor: A morphologic and immunohistochemical study of 52 cases

Chia Sui Kao, Muhammad T. Idrees, Robert H. Young, Thomas M. Ulbright

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55 Scopus citations


Yolk sac tumors may exhibit numerous patterns. One that has received little attention overall, yet is not uncommon, is a solid pattern, which is especially prone to misinterpretation, usually as seminoma, in biopsy specimens from metastatic or mediastinal sites. This distinction is of critical importance as the 2 tumors are treated differently. To determine features useful in the diagnosis of solid yolk sac tumor we reviewed 52 germ cell tumors (28 testicular primaries, 21 metastases from the testis, and 3 mediastinal primaries) that had a yolk sac tumor component with foci of solid growth, defined as a sheet-like arrangement of tumor cells occupying >2 mm2 and with no or only rare microcysts. Solid yolk sac tumor was almost always associated with other patterns, most commonly microcystic/reticular (75%), glandular (35%), and myxoid (25%). The solid foci consisted of sheets of cells with usually abundant cytoplasm that was mostly (85%) pale to clear and frequently had intercellular basement membrane deposits (75%), rare microcysts (67%), significant nuclear pleomorphism (65%), and hyaline globules (65%). In 2 cases (4%), the cells were small with scant cytoplasm (blastema-like variant). A myxoid background (39%), lymphocytic infiltrate (17%), and an appliqué pattern (8%) were sometimes observed. On immunostaining, AE1/AE3 cytokeratin and glypican 3 provided the most intense and diffuse reactivity for solid yolk sac tumor, whereas α-fetoprotein was negative in 38%. CD117 stained 59%, whereas only rare cells in 1 case (3%) were weakly reactive for podoplanin; OCT3/4 was uniformly negative. We conclude that solid yolk sac tumor can generally be recognized by careful morphologic evaluation, especially its association with other yolk sac tumor patterns, the presence of intercellular band-like deposits of basement membrane, occasional microcysts, nuclear pleomorphism, intracellular hyaline globules, and usual absence of lymphocytes. In difficult cases a concise immunohistochemical panel consisting of AE1/AE3, glypican 3, and OCT3/4 distinguishes solid yolk sac tumor from other neoplasms. α-fetoprotein stains are commonly negative or weak and focal in solid yolk sac tumor and cannot be solely relied on for diagnosis. Common CD117 positivity in solid pattern yolk sac tumors makes it an unreliable discriminator between yolk sac tumor and seminoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-367
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012


  • mediastinum
  • solid pattern
  • testis
  • yolk sac tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Surgery

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