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J Thorac Oncol. 2013 Feb;8(2):246-9. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e31827bd931.

Characterization and management of cardiac involvement of thymic epithelial tumors.

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  • 1Medical Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.



Although thymic epithelial tumors (TETs) commonly infiltrate mediastinal structures, cardiac involvement is uncommon and has not been systematically studied. The purpose of this study was to describe our single-institution experience of the clinical presentation, treatment, and follow-up of cardiac involvement in patients with TETs.


A single-institution retrospective review of cardiac involvement among patients with TETs from 2008 to 2012.


The frequency of cardiac involvement was 4%. All five patients with confirmed cardiac disease had left heart involvement. Only one patient was symptomatic. Myocardial invasion was the most common mode of involvement followed by transvenous spread. Surgical resection of the involved area was attempted in three patients: in one, surgery was aborted because of extensive myocardial involvement; in the other two patients, resection was incomplete. Surgery averted a potentially catastrophic hemodynamic complication in one patient. However, cardiac tumor recurred in both patients who underwent incomplete resection. One patient underwent radiation therapy resulting in complete regression of an aortic root mass.


This study represents the most comprehensive review of cardiac involvement in patients with TETs. In contrast to previous single-case reports, we found a preponderance of asymptomatic presentation, left heart involvement, and myocardial invasion. Dynamic cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging should be considered in cases when cardiac involvement is suspected. Although immediate surgical resection is indicated for impending hemodynamic compromise, long-term palliation with surgery for myocardial involvement seems poor, especially when complete resection cannot be performed. Radiation therapy should be considered in selected patients.

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