Mesotheliomas with small cell features: report of eight cases

Mod Pathol. 2012 May;25(5):689-98. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2011.202. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


Mesotheliomas with small cell morphology are rare and only one study of such cases has been published. As a result of their rare occurrence, some investigators have cast doubt on the existence of such a histologic variant of mesothelioma. This investigator reports a series of eight cases of epithelioid mesothelioma with small cell features, all of which originated in the pleura. Seven of the patients were men and one was a woman. Four patients had a history of asbestos exposure. Histologically, four of the mesotheliomas were epithelioid and four biphasic. The proportion of small cells seen in these cases constituted 80 to 100% of the tumor included in the biopsy material and 15 to 20% of the tumor present in the pneumonectomy specimens. Immunoreactivity for calretinin, keratin 5/6, keratin 7, pan-keratin, WT1, podoplanin, and mesothelin was seen in all cases tested for these markers. All of the cases were negative for MOC-31, Ber-EP4, CEA, CD15, TAG-72, TTF-1, chromogranin A, synaptophysin, CD99, and desmin. The mean survival of the six patients for whom this information was available was 8.2 months. It is important for pathologists to be aware that mesotheliomas can present small cell features and, because of this, they can be confused with other malignancies that can exhibit similar morphology. The value of immunohistochemistry in the differential diagnosis of these tumors is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asbestos / adverse effects
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Epithelioid Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelioid Cells / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Mesothelioma / metabolism
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Neoplasms / etiology
  • Pleural Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Survival Rate
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Asbestos