The pathology of late recurrence of testicular germ cell tumors

Helen Michael, John Lucia, Richard S. Foster, Thomas M. Ulbright

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112 Scopus citations


A total of 91 men had histologically documented late recurrences of testicular germ cell tumors characterized by a complete response to treatment with a subsequent disease-free interval of at least 2 years and no evidence of a second primary lesion. Ninety percent of the patients for whom information was available received chemotherapy shortly after their initial diagnosis of testicular germ cell tumors; most of the other patients were known to have stage I disease initially. Overall, 60% of patients had teratoma in their late recurrences, including 20 patients (22%) in whom teratoma was the only element. Thus, teratoma was the most common type of neoplasm in late recurrences. Excluding teratoma coexisting with other types of neoplasms, yolk sac tumor was the most frequent type of tumor in patients with late recurrence. It occurred in 47% of patients, either alone or with teratoma, another nonteratomatous germ cell tumor type, or a 'nongerm cell malignant tumor.' Unusual types of yolk sac tumor, including glandular, parietal, clear cell, and pleomorphic patterns, were seen frequently in late recurrences and often raised differential diagnostic problems with 'nongerm cell' carcinomas. A smaller number of late recurrences consisted of other types of neoplasms. Twenty percent of patients with late recurrence had a nonteratomatous germ cell tumor other than yolk sac tumor, either alone, with yolk sac tumor, or with a 'nongerm cell malignant tumor.' Most of these nonteratomatous germ cell tumors other than yolk sac tumor were embryonal carcinoma, although rarely seminoma and choriocarcinoma were encountered. 'Nongerm cell malignant tumors,' including both sarcomas and carcinomas of various types, occurred in 23% of late-recurrence patients, either alone or with a nonteratomatous germ cell tumor. Late recurrences were seen in many different sites in these patients, including the retroperitoneum, abdomen, pelvis, liver, mediastinum, lung, bone (femur, vertebra, and rib), lymph nodes outside the retroperitoneum and mediastinum (supraclavicular, neck, and axillary regions), scrotum and inguinal regions, adrenal gland, chest wall, and buttocks. Follow-up data were available for 79 of the 91 patients studied. Duration of follow-up ranged from 2 months to 13 years after the patient's first late recurrences: the mean length of follow-up was 4.8 years. Patients whose late recurrences consisted of teratoma only had the most favorable outcomes, with 79% having no evidence of disease at last follow-up. Patients whose late recurrences consisted of pure 'nongerm cell malignant tumor' or pure germ cell tumor (yolk sac tumor or other types) had a much worse prognosis: Only 36% to 37% were alive with no evidence of disease. Patients with two different types of nonteratomatous malignancies in their late recurrences had a dismal clinical course: Only 17% with both yolk sac tumor and other nonteratomatous germ cell tumor had no evidence of disease, whereas no patient with both nonteratomatous germ cell tumor and 'nongerm cell malignant tumor' was disease free. Late recurrences consisting of teratoma alone often have a favorable outcome, but the prognosis in all other patients is poor. Furthermore, late recurrence is not likely to respond to chemotherapy and is best treated by surgical excision when possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-273
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2000


  • Germ cell tumor
  • Late recurrence
  • Testis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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