Prognostic Significance of Extent of Invasion in Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma

Kristine S. Wong, Jochen H. Lorch, Erik K. Alexander, Ellen Marqusee, Nancy L. Cho, Matthew A. Nehs, Gerard M. Doherty, Justine A. Barletta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: The 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) Classification of Tumors of Endocrine Organs defines poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma (PDTC) as a tumor with conventional criteria of malignancy (capsular penetration or vascular invasion) with solid, insular, or trabecular growth, a lack of nuclear features of papillary thyroid carcinoma, and increased mitotic activity, tumor necrosis, or convoluted nuclei. The extent of invasion has been shown to be prognostic in follicular thyroid carcinoma and Hürthle cell carcinoma. Our aim was to evaluate how extent of invasion impacts clinical outcome for PDTC. Methods: We retrospectively identified 47 consecutively diagnosed cases of PDTC that were resected between 2005 and 2018. All cases were reviewed to confirm that the tumors met the 2017 Endocrine WHO criteria of PDTC. In addition, tumors were categorized as follows: encapsulated with capsular penetration only, encapsulated with focal vascular invasion (fewer than four foci), encapsulated with extensive vascular invasion (four or more foci), or widely invasive. Histopathologic characteristics and clinical outcome data were recorded. Results: A total of 47 cases of PDTC, including 15 oncocytic tumors, were identified from 28 (60%) women and 19 (40%) men (mean age of 57 years at diagnosis). The mean tumor size was 4.3 cm. Mitoses numbered 8 per 10 high-power fields (HPF) on average (range: 1-34), and necrosis was present in 21 (45%) cases. Eight (17%) cases were encapsulated with capsular penetration only, 5 (11%) were encapsulated with focal vascular invasion, 18 (38%) were encapsulated with extensive vascular invasion, and 16 (34%) were widely invasive. Of the 42 (89%) patients with follow-up data, 7 (17%) died of disease (with a mean survival time of 6.4 years), 11 (26%) have distant metastatic disease, and 24 (57%) have no evidence of disease (mean follow-up 5.6 years). Eight (19%) patients presented with M1 disease at diagnosis. The 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) for patients with M0 disease at diagnosis was 100% for patients with tumors with capsular invasion only or focal vascular invasion (n = 7), 73% for patients with encapsulated tumors with extensive vascular invasion (n = 11), and 17% for patients with widely invasive PDTCs (n = 6). DFS estimates by Kaplan-Meier analysis were significantly different between these groups (p = 0.0016). Conclusions: Extent of invasion appears to be an important parameter that affects clinical outcome for patients with PDTC. In our cohort, patients with encapsulated PDTC with capsular invasion only or focal vascular invasion had an excellent outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1255-1261
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • angioinvasion
  • poorly differentiated thyroid carcinoma
  • prognosis
  • widely invasive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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