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Pleuropulmonary blastomas are a rare, variably aggressive, childhood primary intrathoracic malignancy. In up to 25% of cases, the mass can be extrapulmonary with attachment to the parietal pleura. They are classified under sarcomatoid carcinomas of the lungs.
Pleuropulmonary blastoma is encountered in childhood, mostly in the first years of life (90% in those between 0-2 years old).
Pleuropulmonary blastomas are associated with type 4 congenital pulmonary airway malformations (CPAM). However, it is likely that any coexistence is related to underlying genetic predisposition rather than the original belief that CPAM undergoes malignant transformation.
Pleuropulmonary blastoma is associated with PPB family tumor and dysplasia syndrome in 33% of cases. Many of these patients have a mutation of the DICER1 gene. In 10% of cases, patients with PPB may also present with multilocular cystic nephroma, and, very rarely, Wilms tumor 7-9.
Pleuropulmonary blastoma is considered a form of pulmonary blastoma. It comprises both mesenchymal and epithelial components resembling fetal lung. Bilateral occurrence is extremely rare 14.
This classification is a continuum from the less malignant to the most malignant lesion:
- cystic: type 1 (prenatal and 10 months old), 14%
- mixed: type 2 (mean age 34 months), 48%
- solid: type 3 (mean age 44 months), 38%
Type 1 pleuropulmonary blastomas are impossible to differentiate radiologically from types 1 and 4 CPAMs. Thus, it must be included in the differential diagnosis, particularly if the patient is known for another type of blastoma, as 25% of pleuropulmonary blastomas appear in families with a history of blastomas.
Pleuropulmonary blastomas are usually right-sided, pleurally-based, without chest wall invasion or calcifications. It can sometimes present with pneumothorax. Types 2 and 3 PPBs are associated with CNS and bone metastases.
Pleuropulmonary blastomas occasionally show:
- TP53 mutation
- p53 and MDM2 protein accumulation
Pleuropulmonary blastomas often present late radiographically as a unilateral lung whiteout on plain film with mediastinal shift to the opposite side. Usually, there are no adjacent rib erosions or calcifications.
A poor imaging modality for this diagnosis, findings are non-specific and may show a large region of consolidation without sonographic air bronchograms 3.
Pleuropulmonary blastoma is usually seen as a large mass in the thorax with mixed solid-cystic heterogeneous low attenuation, pleural effusion (not dominant abnormality), contralateral mediastinal shift, and lack of chest wall invasion 3,4.
- type 1: lesions manifest as a single cyst or a multicystic lesion (often air-filled)
- type 2: lesions show air- or fluid-filled cavities with possible air-fluid levels along with solid internal nodules
- type 3: neoplasms are solid lesions that show low attenuation at CT and homogeneous or heterogeneous enhancement
Type 3 pleuropulmonary blastoma shows increased 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) uptake at PET-CT 13
Treatment and prognosis
Type 1 pleuropulmonary blastomas have a good prognosis. Complete surgical resection is often the treatment of choice, as it is with CPAM. Tumors larger than 5 cm, just like type 1 and 2 pleuropulmonary blastomas carry a worse prognosis 2.
The differential diagnosis for type 1 pleuropulmonary blastoma includes other cystic lesions:
- types 1 and 4 CPAM: indistinguishable from type 1 pleuropulmonary blastoma; however, congenital lung malformations are often detected during the second trimester fetal US, whereas PPB are usually discovered postnatally 13
- large bronchogenic cyst/lung cyst/pneumatocele/pulmonary interstitial emphysema
The differential diagnosis for type 2 and 3 pleuropulmonary blastomas, particularly when they are locally aggressive, includes more common tumors 13:
- intrathoracic soft tissue sarcoma
- primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) of the thorax
- fetal lung interstitial tumor (FLIT) 10
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