Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of lung

Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) of lung is a type of non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is classified under the group of lung carcinomas of the salivary gland type (SGTTL´s -Salivary Gland–Type Tumours of the Lung).

Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is the most common of the SGTTLs 9. The tumor is thought to account for ~ 0.2% of primary lung cancers 4. MEC may be encountered in any age group, however, most cases have been seen in adults 4. There appears to be slight male preponderance with male-to-female distribution of almost 1.5:1 9.

Lesions typically occur in relation to the tracheo-bronchial tree (hence they are also termed muco-epidermoid carcinomas of the tracheo-bronchial tree). In larger series no topographic predilection for any particular pulmonary lobe or segment has been discovered. Central location often leads to postobstructive mucoid and lipoid pneumonia 9.

Gross pathology

Common presentation of this uncommon tumours may be as exophytic endobronchial tumour, potentially greater than 5 cm in greatest diameter. Usually  well circumscribed and with smooth overlying mucosal surfaces, their cut sections are tan-gray or yellow.

Histopathology

May be solid, cystic or both, may show overtly mucoid features. Components comprise clear cells, squamoid cells or transitional polygonal cells, interspersed with areas containing mucus-secreting glandular cells.

They are divided into low- and high-grade lesions.

  • low-grade tumors characteristically demonstrate bland cytologic features; mitotic activity is minimal or absent.
  • high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma demonstrates a greater degree of cytologic anaplasia in both its squamoid and glandular elements; areas of necrosis and hemorrhage may also be present.
Differentials on biopsy
  • low-grade MEC´s
    • may resemble mucous gland adenoma (MGA), especially in small biopsies.
    • distinction between these two entities may be impossible without complete resection of the tumour.
  • high-grade MEC´s: distinction from NSCLC may be largely academic.
    • usually based on the absence of foci of conventional adenocarcinoma
    • other usable features include absence of an in situ carcinomatous component and the presence of low-grade mucoepidermoid areas in some of these high-grade lesions.

Symptoms are dependent on the size and location of the neoplasms. Large central tumors can cause symptoms of obstruction, with pneumonia, dyspnea or chest pain, whilst more peripheral lesions may be asymptomatic. In these cases they are frequently encountered on routine chest X-ray.

CT chest - HRCT

CT features are can be variable and nonspecific, although a well-defined ovoid or lobulated intraluminal or lung peripheral mass with moderate to marked heterogeneous contrast enhancement may suggest towards the diagnosis 1.

Lesions may sometimes show punctate calcification and may adapt to branching feature of the airways 3.

FDG PET/CT

may aid in differentiation from other lung tumours 5, but first of all it has been shown to have high accuracy in detection of histopathological tumour differentiation 10-11

  • high-grade - high FDG-hypermetabolism (avid)
  • low-grade - slight FDG-hypermetabolism  (less or even non avid)

hence prediction of prognosis (and need for more aggressive treatment) may be possible 10-11.

Most lesions are generally regarded as low grade 7,10 and overall prognosis may be more favourable than other forms of lung cancer.

For high grade tumours prognosis may equate that of other forms of NSCLC s 9--11, hence adjuvant radiation and chemotherapy is often performed 9.


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Article Information

rID: 22999
System: Chest
Section: Pathology
Tag: cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) of lung
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) of the lung
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) of lungs
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of lungs
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the lung
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the lungs
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the tracheo-bronchial tree.

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