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Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Aug;26(8):1007-15.

Thyroid carcinomas with distant metastases: a review of 111 cases with emphasis on the prognostic significance of an insular component.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Hôpital de l'Antiquaille, Lyon, France.


Distant metastases (DM) are rare in well-differentiated thyroid carcinomas and correlate with a poor survival. Among the histologic subtypes, insular carcinoma has an intermediate prognosis that lies between well and undifferentiated carcinomas. To assess the characteristics that could predict a worse prognosis, we reviewed the initial thyroid cancer slides from patients with DM. We achieved a comparative statistical analysis with a control group without DM. Among 1230 differentiated carcinomas treated from 1960 to 1999, 9% developed DM. In this group the mean age was 53 years, with a 73% rate of death. The histologic slides were available in 80 cases. The primary thyroid tumors were classified as papillary (51 cases), follicular (25), and pure insular carcinomas (4). Extrathyroidal extension was present in 47% of papillary carcinomas. The mean tumor size was above 5 cm for all the histologic subtypes, and at least a vascular invasion was found in 69%. Fifty-four percent of these tumors had an insular component compared with only 6.5% in the control group. The statistical analysis confirmed by univariate and multivariate logistic regression that the risk of DM was highly elevated in the presence of insular carcinoma. Our study indicates that elevated age, large tumor size, vascular invasion, and extrathyroidal extension are important prognostic factors in well-differentiated carcinomas. We also demonstrate that the presence of an insular component in an otherwise differentiated carcinoma is a strong independent poor prognostic factor.

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