The spectrum of micronodular thymic epithelial tumours with lymphoid B-cell hyperplasia

Histopathology. 2001 Jun;38(6):519-27. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2559.2001.01133.x.


Aims: A rare type of thymoma, micronodular thymoma with lymphoid B-cell hyperplasia, was recently reported by Suster and Moran. Thymic epithelial tumours with a similar pattern but with varied cytological features of the tumour cells are analysed.

Methods and results: A total of 11 cases of thymic epithelial tumours characterized by micronodular proliferation of tumour cells separated by abundant lymphoid stroma with prominent germinal centres were reviewed clinicopathologically and examined immunohistochemically. The presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome was also examined by in-situ hybridization. Based on the morphology of tumour epithelial cells, cases were subdivided into four groups: group 1 (two cases) having spindle epithelial cells; group 2 (two cases) showing an admixture of spindle and polygonal epithelial cells; group 3 (five cases) having polygonal epithelial cells, with mild to moderate cytological atypia in four cases, and group 4 (two cases) representing lymphoepithelioma-like carcinoma. The degree of cytological atypia and the number of tumour cells positive for MIB-1 and p53 gradually increased towards group 4. The abundant lymphoid stroma in all cases contained many CD20-positive B-cells and CD3 and CD45RO-positive T-cells. CD99-positive immature T-cells were present in all cases of groups 1 and 2 and in most cases of group 3, but not in both cases of group 4 tumours. IgG, IgM and IgD-positive plasma cells and lymphocytes were also present in all cases, more prominent in those of groups 3 and 4. The EBV genome was detected in only a few lymphocytes in five cases.

Conclusions: The tumours in this series belong to a distinct category of thymic epithelial tumours and each of the above groups may constitute a spectrum in the continuum of cytological atypia. The aetiological relationship of EBV with these tumours could not be proved. The lymphoid B-cell hyperplasia may result from a host immune response and may suggest a favourable clinical course of this type of tumour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / complications
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Thymoma / complications
  • Thymoma / pathology*
  • Thymoma / virology
  • Thymus Neoplasms / complications
  • Thymus Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / virology


  • RNA, Viral