Oncocytic adrenocortical neoplasms: a report of seven cases and review of the literature

Am J Surg Pathol. 1998 May;22(5):603-14. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199805000-00012.


Oncocytic neoplasms of the adrenal gland are rare. We describe the clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical findings of seven oncocytic adrenocortical neoplasms, five oncocytomas, and two oncocytic neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential. Three tumors were studied using electron microscopy. These neoplasms occurred in five women and two men (median age, 55 years) with no clinical evidence that the neoplasms were functional. The size of the neoplasms varied from 5.0 cm to 13.5 cm. Histologically, each neoplasm was composed exclusively of oncocytes. The oncocytomas had very low or absent mitotic activity and no evidence of necrosis. The two oncocytic neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential had increased mitotic activity and necrosis but no evidence of invasion or metastases. Nuclear atypia, either focal or generalized, was found in all neoplasms. Immunohistochemical studies performed using fixed, paraffin-embedded sections showed strong reactivity with the mitochondrial antibody mES-13 in all neoplasms. Four of five oncocytomas and one oncocytic neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential expressed keratin, predominantly keratin 18, as shown using the CAM 5.2 and AE3 antibodies. Two neuroendocrine-associated markers, neuron specific enolase and synaptophysin, were positive in seven and five neoplasms, respectively. However, all neoplasms were negative for the other neuroendocrine markers tested, including chromogranin A, tyrosine hydroxylase, and dopamine beta-hydroxylase, as well as for epithelial membrane antigen, S100, and p53. Using the MIB-1 (Ki-67) antibody, proliferative activity was increased in both oncocytic neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential. All six patients with available clinical follow-up data are alive without evidence disease, although the follow-up interval is relatively short (< 2 years) for the two patients with oncocytic neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential. We conclude that oncocytic adrenocortical neoplasms are nonfunctional tumors that can become large before they are detected by radiologic studies. The majority of neoplasms are benign and should not be misdiagnosed as carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / chemistry
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / genetics
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / pathology*
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / ultrastructure
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / genetics
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • DNA / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Proteins / analysis
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / analysis
  • Synaptophysin / analysis


  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Synaptophysin
  • Keratins
  • DNA
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase