Large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the larynx: definition of an entity

Head Neck Pathol. 2010 Sep;4(3):198-207. doi: 10.1007/s12105-010-0188-0. Epub 2010 Jun 30.


Laryngeal atypical carcinoids (AC/moderately-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma) are associated with moderately aggressive clinical behavior; however, a subset of tumors classified as AC have much greater aggressive potential. These tumors fulfill the proposed diagnostic criteria for pulmonary large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, albeit in the larynx. In the current WHO classification, laryngeal large cell neuroendocrine carcinomas (LCNEC) are classified as variants of AC, whereas pulmonary LCNEC are classified as poorly-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinomas. Reported outcomes for pulmonary tumors support the separate classification of LCNEC. Five and ten year survival rates for pulmonary AC are 61-73, and 35-59%, respectively, while the 5-year survival rate for pulmonary LCNEC is as low as 30%. By extension, we postulate that the biologic potential of laryngeal LCNEC is similar to that of small-cell carcinoma (poorly-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma), and as such, warrants reclassification. The files of Barnes Jewish Hospital/Washington University were searched for the term "neuroendocrine" and the anatomic subsite larynx. Neuroendocrine carcinoma cases were evaluated using the WHO definitions for pulmonary AC and LCNEC; small cell carcinoma was excluded. Cases were also solicited from the larger head and neck pathology community. A literature search was also performed for cases of laryngeal neuroendocrine carcinoma, and cases which could be clearly classified as LCNEC by this scheme were captured as well. Six new cases plus four reported cases were identified which fulfill the WHO criteria for pulmonary LCNEC (eight men and two women). Nine patients presented at stage IV and 88% died of disease (DOD), 75 and 100% of these at 2 and 3 years, respectively. Laryngeal LCNEC is a rare entity, distinct from AC. We recommend that laryngeal tumors fulfilling WHO criteria for pulmonary LCNEC not be classified as variants of AC, but as variants of small cell carcinoma (poorly-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma) as they are associated with poorer outcome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / classification
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / classification
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • World Health Organization