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Hum Pathol. 1978 Mar;9(2):143-56.

The fine structure of large cell undifferentiated carcinoma of the lung. Evidence for its relation to squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas.


The light microscopic diagnosis of large cell undifferentiated carcinoma of the lung is known to be highly subjective and shows poor interobserver reproducibility; the very existence of this tumor as a separate entity has been challenged. The ultrastructure of seven large cell undifferentiated carcinomas was examined in an attempt to determine whether they were merely poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, or actually represented an entirely separate class of tumors. Four large cell undifferentiated carcinomas demonstrated intra- and intercellular lumina and were designated adenocarcinomas. In three cases there were well formed desmosomes with numerous tonofilaments and intercellular bridges. These tumors were classified as squamous cell carcinomas. An eighth tumor metastatic to the abdominal wall also showed the features of squamous carcinoma. In addition, all tumors contained a variable population of primitive cells without identifying features. The large cell undifferentiated carcinomas were compared ultrastructurally with eight cases of poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas classified by light microscopy. These tumors were morphologically similar, but contained fewer primitive cells and greater numbers of differentiated cells. Cells with a clear cytoplasm as seen by light microscopy were present in both the large cell undifferentiated and poorly differentiated groups; these cells contained variable amounts of glycogen but were otherwise similar to the nonclear cells. It is suggested that most of the subcategories of large cell undifferentiated carcinoma represent very poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas and squamous carcinomas.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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