Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma: an epidemiologic, histologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular single-institution study

Audrey Deeken-Draisey, Guang Yu Yang, Juehua Gao, Borislav A. Alexiev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a highly aggressive form of thyroid cancer. A single-institution thyroid cancer cohort of ATC was identified within the last 10 years at our institution. Retrospective analysis revealed that the frequency of ATC was 0.5% (11/2106 thyroid carcinomas). The average age at diagnosis of ATC was 74 years, and the female-to-male ratio was 1.2:1. ATC presented as a rapidly enlarging neck mass involving predominantly the left thyroid lobe (7/11; 64%). Cervical adenopathy was present in 7 (64%) of 11 cases. Fifty-five percent (6/11) of patients had distant metastases at the time of diagnosis. Histologically, ATC closely simulated a large variety of soft tissue sarcomas; osteoclast-like giant cell–rich tumors; squamous cell, spindle cell, and small cell carcinomas; and anaplastic/large cell lymphomas. Four tumors (4/11; 36%) showed heterologous elements, including rhabdoid and chondroid differentiation. Immunohistochemical studies showed that all ATCs lost TTF-1 and thyroglobulin expression, whereas PAX-8 expression was identified in 36% (4/11) of tumors. Intense and extensive nuclear staining of p53 (>50%) and high Ki-67 proliferative rate (>30%) were seen in all ATCs (11/11; 100%). Next-generation sequencing revealed recurrent BRAF V600E and TP53 gene mutations. Individual examples of a BRAF G469A mutation in ATC with follicular carcinoma component, EGFR, PTEN, PIK3CA, and FGFR3 mutations, were also identified, whereas 1 case of ATC showed wild-type sequencing with no identifiable alterations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-148
Number of pages9
JournalHuman pathology
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Gene mutations
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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