The role of histology in predicting recurrence of type A thymomas: A clinicopathologic correlation of 23 cases

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Spindle cell thymomas (type A), as per the WHO definition, are benign tumors with an excellent prognosis. However, recent studies document aggressive behavior with local recurrences as well as extrathoracic metastases. More recently, Nonaka and Rosai have raised the question as to whether atypical features like cellular atypia, mitotic activity, necrosis, and vascular permeation could predict the adverse outcomes of these tumors. In an effort to address the 'atypia and outcome' issue of spindle cell thymomas, we analyzed our database of over 600 cases of thymic tumors to identify type A thymomas. The presence of histomorphological features like tumor size, nuclear shape and variability, mitotic rate, and presence/absence of necrosis were correlated with Masaoka stage, relapse/recurrence, and extrathoracic metastases. The study identified 23 patients of pure spindle cell thymomas (WHO type A) ranging in age from 40 to 88 years (median age, 54 years) and with male-to-female ratio of 1:0.9. Approximately 43% of the cases had recurrence or metastases during the followup period (average, 49 months). The presence of necrosis correlates with both relapse and extrathoracic metastases but not with the stage of diagnosis. However, none of the other clinical or histological features, including size, predominant nuclear shape, nuclear variability, and mitotic activity, were correlated with the outcome parameters, such as stage at diagnosis, presence or absence of relapse, and extrathoracic metastases. Histological atypia is fairly common in WHO type A thymomas. The presence of necrosis was associated with both locoregional and systemic disease. However, none of the other clinical or histological features correlated with aggressive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1059-1064
Number of pages6
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013



  • Atypia
  • Behavior
  • Histology
  • Metastasis
  • Spindle cell thymoma
  • Thymoma
  • Type A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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