Pathology of small-cell lung cancer

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2000 Jul;126(7):361-8. doi: 10.1007/pl00008483.


The morphological differentiation between small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer has great prognostic and therapeutic significance for the patient. Malignant lung tumors are now classified according to the new 1999 WHO/IASLC classification of lung and pleural tumors. The variant of heterogeneously differentiated "combined small-cell carcinoma" can be distinguished from classical small-cell carcinoma, whereas the subtype of "intermediate cell carcinoma" is no longer used. Together with "large-cell neuroendocrine carcinomas" and typical or atypical carcinoid tumors, small-cell lung cancers are currently histogenetically categorized as neuroendocrine lung tumors. In contrast to large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, the immunohistochemical demonstration of neuroendocrine differentiation is not a prerequisite for the diagnosis of small-cell lung cancer. Although electron-microscopical, immunohistochemical, and molecular-biological findings have considerably increased our understanding of the pathogenesis and progression of malignant lung tumors, routine pathological-anatomical diagnostics are still decisively based on light-microscopical evaluation of tissue samples.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / therapy
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mutation
  • Oncogenes / genetics
  • Remission Induction
  • Up-Regulation