Large-cell lung cancer

Large-cell lung cancer is one of the histological types of non-small-cell carcinomas of the lung diagnosed only on resection, after exclusion of adenocarcinomatous or squamous differentiation. 

It is thought to account for approximately 10% of bronchogenic carcinoma 1.

Patients present with dyspnoea, chronic cough, and haemoptysis.

Microscopically large cell carcinoma is characterised by large nuclei/nucleoli with a moderate amount of cytoplasm, hence the name large cell carcinoma. This undifferentiated tumour lacks distinctive features of small cell carcinoma, glandular, or squamous differentiation.

According to the last international consensus, the diagnosis of large cell carcinoma should not be achieved based on small biopsy or cytology samples and is, therefore, restricted to resection specimens where the tumour is completely sampled to exclude a differentiated component 4.

On immunophenotyping, characteristic features include 2:

  • loss of staining with CK5/6
  • CK14 positive in most squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  • lack of MOC 31 positive in most adenocarcinomas
  • positive immunoreactivity to EGFR, PDGFR-alpha and c-kit.

The subtype large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma is now grouped under the pulmonary neuroendocrine tumours since the last WHO review in 2015 5

Large-cell lung cancer of the lung typically presents as a large peripheral mass of solid attenuation and irregular margin. Focal necrosis can be present. Other characteristics include rapid growth and early metastasis. 

The histologic subtype of large cell neuroendocrine tumour has a more aggressive pattern and is associated with poorer prognosis. 


Article information

rID: 22405
System: Chest, Oncology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung
  • Large cell cancer of the lung
  • Large cell cancer of lung
  • Large cell carcinoma of lung
  • Large cell carcinomas (LCC) of the lung
  • Large cell carcinomas of the lung

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: apical location invading the chest wall
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