Thymoma-associated myasthenia gravis: Clinical features and predictive value of antiacetylcholine receptor antibodies in the risk of recurrence of thymoma

Thorac Cancer. 2021 Jan;12(1):106-113. doi: 10.1111/1759-7714.13724. Epub 2020 Nov 3.


Background: Thymoma-associated myasthenia gravis (TAMG) is one of the subtypes of myasthenia gravis with autoantibodies against the acetylcholine receptor (AChR-Ab). We analyzed the clinical features of our cohort of TAMG patients and the changes in AChR-Ab titer before and after thymectomy in order to identify factors predicting thymoma relapses.

Methods: We retrospectively assessed: age of MG onset, MG clinical status according to MGFA (Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America), epoch of thymectomy, post-thymectomy status, oncological features and surgical approach. AChR-Ab dosages were measured both before and after thymectomy. Linear regression models were applied to identify clinical determinants of AChR-Ab titers and the Cox regression model was fitted to estimate the factors associated with the risk of thymoma recurrence.

Results: The study sample included 239 MG patients, 27 of whom experienced one or more recurrences (median follow-up time: 4.8 years). The AChR-Ab titers decreased after first thymectomy (P < 0.001); the decrease was more pronounced in female patients (P = 0.05), in patients diagnosed with MG at an older age (P = 0.003), and in those who had lower MG stage before surgery (P = 0.02) or higher Masaoka-Koga stage (P = 0.005). The risk of relapse was closely linked with the age of the patient, the Masaoka-Koga stage and the surgical approach.

Conclusions: Presurgery levels of AChR-Ab or their change after surgery were not associated with thymoma recurrence. The reduction of AChR-Ab titers after thymectomy confirms an immunological role of thymoma in the pathogenesis of MG.

Key points: Significant findings of the study: Young MG patients with an advanced Masaoka staging score of the primary tumor who underwent thymectomy with approaches different from sternotomy and VATS should be monitored for high risk of recurrence.

What this study adds: No other study has ever investigated the changes in AChR-Ab titers before and after thymectomy in a large cohort of TAMG patients. The reduction of AChR-Ab titers after thymectomy suggests an immunological role of thymoma in the pathogenesis of MG.

Keywords: Antiacetylcholine receptor antibody; myasthenia gravis; thymoma; thymoma recurrence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myasthenia Gravis / complications*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thymoma / etiology*
  • Thymoma / pathology


  • Receptors, Cholinergic