Indexed on: 15 Oct '10Published on: 15 Oct '10Published in: Annals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology / ESMO
Pulmonary neuroendocrine (NE) tumors include a spectrum of tumors from the low-grade typical carcinoid (TC) and intermediate-grade atypical carcinoid (AC) to the high-grade large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) and small-cell carcinoma (SCLC). Nodular NE proliferations ≥ 0.5 cm are classified as carcinoid tumors and smaller ones are called tumorlets. When NE cell hyperplasia and tumorlets are extensive they represent the rare preinvasive lesion for carcinoids known as diffuse idiopathic pulmonary NE cell hyperplasia. Carcinoid tumors have significant clinical, epidemiologic and genetic differences from the high-grade SCLC and LCNEC. Multiple endocrine neoplasia type I can be found in TC and AC patients but not those with LCNEC and SCLC. Also both LCNEC and SCLC can demonstrate histologic heterogeneity with other major histologic types of lung carcinoma such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, but is not characteristic of TC or AC. Genetic changes are very high in SCLC and LCNEC, but usually low for TC, intermediate for AC. The diagnosis of SCLC, TC and AC can be made by light microscopy without the need for special tests in most cases, but for LCNEC it is required to demonstrate NE differentiation by immunohistochemistry or electron microscopy.