Macrofollicular variant of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid: a histologic, cytologic, and immunohistochemical study of 3 cases and review of the literature

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2004 Jan;128(1):54-8. doi: 10.5858/2004-128-54-MVOPCO.


Context: The macrofollicular variant of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid is a rare entity described by J. Albores-Saavedra and colleagues in 1991. It is characterized histologically by a predominance of macrofollicles and clinically by a low incidence of metastasis. This entity may represent a source of diagnostic error, since it can be easily misinterpreted as a macrofollicular adenoma or nodular goiter.

Design: In this study, we describe 3 cases of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid with a macrofollicular growth pattern and review the literature.

Results: The fine-needle aspiration biopsies in 2 cases showed large cells with optically clear nuclei and nuclear grooves, suggestive of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. In one case, the cytology showed no signs of malignancy. In all cases, the tumors showed a combination of the conventional follicular variant of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid and macrofollicles (diameter, >250 microm) occupying more than 50% of the cross-sectional area. Cytologic features were large, cuboidal cells with optically clear, ground-glass nuclei with smooth outlines, a fine chromatin pattern, nuclear grooves, and pseudoinclusions. The colloid was dense and more eosinophilic than in adjacent normal follicles. In 2 cases, there was capsular or blood vessel infiltration, and one tumor had metastasized to a cervical lymph node. One tumor recurred 1 year later as an anaplastic carcinoma. Immunohistochemical staining showed a positivity of the tumor cells for cytokeratins 7, 17, and 19, thyroid transcription factor-1, and galectin-3 and a negativity for cytokeratin 20 and p53.

Conclusions: Although it has been suggested that this tumor is a highly differentiated variant with a favorable prognosis, our study shows that its biologic behavior is not conclusive because metastases and recurrences with dedifferentiation may occur.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*