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Cancer. 1997 Aug 15;80(4):681-90.

Primary germ cell tumors of the mediastinum: I. Analysis of 322 cases with special emphasis on teratomatous lesions and a proposal for histopathologic classification and clinical staging.

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Department of Pulmonary and Mediastinal Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306-6000, USA.



Primary germ cell tumors of the mediastinum are unusual neoplasms with histopathologic features that are similar to those of germ cell tumors in the gonads. However, their clinical features, behavior, and spectrum of pathologic features in the mediastinum have not yet been fully defined.


The clinical and pathologic features of 322 cases of primary mediastinal germ cell tumors were reviewed, with special emphasis on teratomatous lesions. The tumors were divided into groups according to their histologic features and correlated with their order of frequency, patient gender and age distribution, and morphologic features. A clinical staging scheme based on the extent and location of the lesions was devised.


The overwhelming majority of patients were men (320); only 2 were women (both had teratomatous lesions with additional malignant components). The patients' ages ranged from 1 to 79 years (mean, 40 years). Histologically, all types of germ cell tumors were represented, including 138 teratomas (87 mature teratomas, 6 immature teratomas, and 45 teratomas with additional malignant components); 120 seminomas; 52 nonseminomatous, nonteratomatous germ cell tumors (38 yolk sac tumors, 6 embryonal carcinomas, and 8 choriocarcinomas); and 12 combined germ cell tumors without teratomatous components. The teratomatous lesions with additional malignant components were further separated into subtypes based on the histologic types of their malignant components, i.e., epithelial, mesenchymal, etc. Clinical staging was possible in 242 cases, with 191 cases (79%) in Stage I, 4 cases (1.6%) in Stage II, and 47 cases (19.4%) in Stage III. In each group, the clinical staging correlated well with the clinical outcome for the majority of patients.


The results of this study showed that mediastinal germ cell tumors have demographic and histopathologic distributions similar to those of tumors occurring in the male gonads, with teratomatous and seminomatous lesions being the most common. Among the nonseminomatous germ cell tumors in this study, the yolk sac tumors appeared to occur the most frequently (the ratio of yolk sac tumor occurrence to embryonal carcinoma occurrence was 6.1:1). In addition, the subclassification of teratomas with additional malignant components based on the histologic types of malignancies may lead to more therapy choices for patients. At the same time, the use of a clinical staging scheme may be of value in predicting clinical outcome and planning therapy.

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