Thymic carcinoma

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Among 54 mediastinal tumours we examined in the past 20 years, there were 5 cases of primary thymic carcinomas, each with widespread metastases. Histological features in three cases were consistent with lymphoepithelioma-like carcinoma. One case showed an epidermoid pattern with keratotic pearls resembling Hassall bodies. One undifferentiated carcinoma developed from a cortical thymoma. Epstein-Barr virus could not be detected in tumour tissue with in situ hybridization. A review of the literature revealed only 94 well-documented cases of thymic carcinoma. Both thymic carcinomas and thymomas are neoplasms of the thymic epithelial cells, but thymic carcinomas are obviously histologically malignant and usually not associated with any parathymic syndromes. Epidermoid and lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas are described along with special forms, such as small- and clear-cell carcinomas, basaloid, sarcomatoid, mucoepidermoid, and adenocystic carcinoma. Compared to the other forms, lymphoepithelioma-like carcinoma has a poor prognosis in regard to metastases and rate of survival. Some thymic carcinomas may develop from pre-existing thymomas.