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Hum Pathol. 1990 Mar;21(3):283-90.

Distant metastases in differentiated thyroid carcinomas: a clinical and pathologic study.

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  • 1Department of Nuclear Medicine, Kanazawa University Hospital, Japan.


Of 514 patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma treated between 1970 and 1987, 34 (6.6%) had distant metastases. Twelve patients died of their distant metastases; eight of these patients died within 5 years from the time of initial diagnosis. Death from cancer was most frequent in the seventh decade. The metastases were most often found in the lungs and bones. In the fatal group, pleural, brain, and pericardial metastases were noted. Local recurrences were found only in 24% of these 34 patients. Histologic types of primary thyroid tumors and metastatic tumors were reexamined and classified using our criteria, which were mainly based on the World Health Organization nomenclature and currently obtained pathologic observations of thyroid tumors. In 31 thyroid tumors, the surgical specimens were available for review. Twenty-four tumors were papillary and seven were follicular. Of the 24 papillary carcinomas, nine were follicular, eight were well-differentiated, and seven were trabecular. On the other hand, the seven follicular carcinomas consisted of four well-differentiated, two solid, and one oxyphilic. The majority of the thyroid tumors showed an extrathyroidal extension; however, two were intrathyroidal carcinomas and two were encapsulated carcinomas, larger than 5 cm in diameter. Distant metastases were confirmed morphologically in 18 patients (11 by surgical or biopsy material, five by autopsy, and two by cytology). The histologic types of metastatic tumors were consistent with those of primary thyroid tumors. Diagnostic 131I uptake was examined in 32 patients and absorption of diagnostic 131I in metastatic tumors was demonstrated in 21 patients. The 10-year survival rate of patients with 131I accumulating metastases (70%) was significantly better than that of patients with metastases lacking such uptake (40%). Immunoreactivity for thyroglobulin in metastatic tumors was correlated with the 131I absorption. This finding indicated that immunostaining of thyroglobulin in metastatic tumors might be useful in the prediction of the effectiveness of 131I therapy.

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