Surgical treatment of recurrent thymomas

J Thorac Oncol. 2010 Oct;5(10 Suppl 4):S348-51. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181f20f27.


Thymomas are neoplasms arising from the epithelial thymic cells, with a recurrence rate after complete resection ranging from 5 to 50%, according to the initial stage of disease. The pleura is the most frequent site of relapse, while distant metastases occur in less than 5% of the cases. Data in the literature show that recurrences can occur several years after the resection of a thymoma; unfortunately, few reports have analyzed the treatment of recurrences of thymoma. There is no standard treatment for the recurrent disease, and most of the treatments proposed by the authors are based more on their personal experience and individualized treatment than on an evidence-based method. Moreover, most series concerning surgery for recurrent thymomas suffer from a selection bias: patients with limited disease and better performance status are usually selected for surgery, with an anticipated survival advantage in the surgical group. Surgery for recurrent thymoma is indicated if complete resection is feasible, whereas in the case of predicted debulking surgery, it may be considered as part of a multidisciplinary protocol. In the literature, a few case reports of the surgical treatment of metachronous distant metastases to liver or brain from thymoma have been described, but they are really rare, and a decision about their treatment is always on a single patient basis. We can conclude that reoperation for thymoma recurrences is feasible and relatively safe, and it should always be considered because the other treatment modalities are not curative.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Reoperation
  • Thymoma / secondary
  • Thymoma / surgery*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thymus Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome