Follicular adenoma with papillary architecture: a lesion mimicking papillary thyroid carcinoma
Aims: The purpose of this study was to investigate the significance of ‘benign’ encapsulated follicular thyroid nodules with papillary structures.
Methods and results: Twenty-one cases of encapsulated neoplastic thyroid nodules with papillary structures and nuclear features not diagnostic of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) were obtained. All cases were reviewed with particular attention to nuclear features (fine chromatin pattern, optical clearing, grooves and inclusions). Representative sections were submitted for measurement of the maximum diameter of 200 round or nearly round nuclei and for immunostaining for MIB1, CK19, HBME and Ret oncogene protein. Nine cases displayed scattered optically clear nuclei or nuclear grooves in less than 30% of total neoplastic cells. They were grouped in the category of thyroid nodules with limited nuclear features of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), but not diagnostic of PTC. The other 12 cases had fine or coarse chromatin, but lacked other features of nuclei in PTC. The diameter of the nuclei ranged from 5.6 to 7.2 μm and were smaller than those of PTC (6.3–10.0 μm). Immunostaining revealed positive reactivity for MIB1 in the papillary structures. Immunostaining for CK19 and HBME varied from negative or focally weak to diffusely moderate reactivity. Ret oncogene protein immunostaining showed focal and weak reactivity in one case and was negative in other cases of the study. Clinical follow-up from 6 months to 15 years revealed no evidence of metastasis.
Conclusions: The papillary structures in the study cases are unlikely to represent degenerative changes due to their proliferative activity. In view of (i) the encapsulation and the uniformity of the constituent cells, (ii) the varying degrees of immunoreactivity for CK19 and HBME and negative immunoreactivity for Ret oncogene protein, and (iii) the absence or insufficiency of nuclear criteria for the diagnosis of PTC and the absence of lymph node metastasis in all study cases, we believe that these lesions represent the papillary variant of follicular adenoma. Recognition of this pathological entity is important to avoid an over-diagnosis of PTC.