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Mod Pathol. 2019 Feb 5. doi: 10.1038/s41379-018-0199-z. [Epub ahead of print]

Angiosarcoma and anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid are two distinct entities: a morphologic, immunohistochemical, and genetic study.

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Pathology Unit, Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, Azienda USL-IRCCS, Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Laboratory of Translational Research, Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, Azienda USL-IRCCS, Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology (Dipartimento di Farmacia e Biotecnologie) - Molecular Pathology Unit, Azienda USL di Bologna, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Department of Anatomic Pathology, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria, Modena, Italy.
Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Insumbria, Varese, Italy.
Service of Clinical Pathology, Lausanne University Hospital, Institute of Pathology, Lausanne, Switzerland.
National Cancer Institute G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.
Pathology Unit, Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, Azienda USL-IRCCS, Reggio Emilia, Italy.


Angiosarcoma and anaplastic carcinoma are the most lethal neoplasms of the thyroid worldwide and share some similarities, which have led to a longstanding controversy on their etiopathological relationship. Thyroid angiosarcomas are characterized by vessel formation and an immunophenotype common to endothelial cells, while anaplastic carcinomas are partially or wholly composed of mesenchymal-like cells that have lost the morphologic and functional features of normal thyroid follicular cells. To investigate whether angiosarcomas represent the endothelial extreme of the differentiation spectrum of carcinomas or they are bona fide vascular neoplasms, we studied the clinico-morphologic and genetic characteristics of a series of 10 angiosarcomas and 22 anaplastic carcinomas. Immunohistochemically, among the endothelial markers, CD31 and ERG were the most consistently expressed in angiosarcomas. Among the markers of thyroid origin, PAX8 was the most reliable in anaplastic carcinomas, while TTF-1 reactivity was found in only 5% of anaplastic carcinomas and thyroglobulin was always negative. Pankeratin reacted with most angiosarcomas and anaplastic carcinomas and is therefore not useful in the differential diagnosis. Interestingly a mutated pattern of p53 immunostaining prompted a diagnosis of anaplastic carcinoma. To compare the genetic profile, we used the NGS approach to sequence hotspot regions within a panel of 57 genes. As a result, only a few mutations were found in angiosarcomas and all of them were single events (no TP53 or TERT mutation). On the other hand, anaplastic carcinomas were characterized by a higher number of mutations, and TP53 and TERT promoter mutations were the most frequent genetic alterations. The lack in angiosarcomas of the common mutations identified in anaplastic carcinomas supports a different genetic origin and strongly suggests that, in spite of a shared sarcomatous morphology and a similar clinical aggressiveness, angiosarcomas and anaplastic carcinomas rely on a completely different set of genetic alterations during their evolution.


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