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thyroid medullary carcinoma

Friday 27 February 2004

medullary thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid carcinoma ; MTC; thyroid medullary carcinoma

Definition: Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a rare malignancy originating from the calcitonin-secreting parafollicular thyroid C cells. Approximately 75% of cases are sporadic.

Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is an unusual neoplasm, accounting for 3-10% of all thyroid cancer cases. It occurs in a sporadic and hereditary form. Rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene plays a crucial role in MTC development.


- Medullary thyroid carcinoma


- history of medullary thyroid CA (MTC) "spindle cell variant" - metastasis from the known thyroid primary

Digital cases

Classical type

- JRC:387 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, Metastatic (Lymph node, neck).
- JRC:480 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, classical type.
- JRC:2668 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, classical type.
- JRC:14580 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma (Marked nesting (Zellballen) pattern).
- JRC:14617 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma.
- JRC:14916 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, classical type.
- JRC:15039 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, classical type.
- JRC:18760 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma.
- JRC:18763 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma.
- JRC:18909 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma with amyloid stroma.
- JRC:18910 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma.

Papillary variant
- JRC:2663 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, papillary variant.
- JRC:15034 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, papillary variant.

Spindle cell variant
- JRC:2670 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, spindle cell variant.
- JRC:483 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma with spindle cell features.
- JRC:15401 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, spindle cell variant.
- Image :

High-grade, small cell variant

- JRC:63 : Thyroid medullary carcinoma, high grade (small cell).


- amyloidosis

Clinical synopsis

- May have other MEN 2 features
- Painless thyroid mass
- 50% with node metastases at presentation
- 15% with distant metastases at presentation
- Raised serum calcitonin levels
- May present with other unusual endocrine paraneoplastic features.

Morphological synopsis

- Irregular unencapsulated firm mass centrally in thyroid lobe
- Usually unicentric

  • except syndromic cases

- Solid sheets, nests or trabeculae of tumor cells composed of varying proportions of:

  • polygonal, round or spindle cells
    • round / oval bland nuclei
    • occasionally pleomorphic

- rare mitoses
- locally infiltrative
- fibrovascular intervening stroma

  • variable appearance
  • may be hyalinized
  • majority have amyloid areas (Congo red positive)


- CEA+

  • strong expression associated with worse prognosis

- Calcitonin+
- Chromogranin+
- Synaptophysin+
- TTF-1+
- ±S100 + : sustentacular cells peripherally


- thyroid medullary carcinoma, papillary variant

MEN associated cases

- younger age
- multicentric
- bilateral


- Mainly adults when sporadic
- Children affected when associated with MEN 2A, 2B and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma syndromes. It may even present in infancy in these syndromes

Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) accounts for approximately 3% to 10% of all thyroid carcinomas.

The female to male ratio generally reported ratio is of 1.3/1.

Hereditary MTC often presents with bilateral tumors and is frequently associated with C-cell hyperplasia (CCH).

By means of calcitonin screening programs, MTCs could be detected at an early stage in families with MTC.

Germ-line mutations of the RET protooncogene, considered to be responsible for the hyperproliferative activity of C cells, are identified in family members at risk.

In contrast, sporadic forms of MTC rarely were detected at an early stage, because routine screening was not performed. Therefore, only scant data are available at pathogenesis and possible precursor lesions such as CCH.

Although in case reports, CCH has been reported to occur in apparently sporadic MTCs, it is generally assumed that sporadic MTC is not associated with CCH.

The occurrence of CCH in the absence of hereditary risk factors is considered to represent a reactive proliferation of C cells associated with a variety of thyroid and parathyroid disorders.

Serum calcitonin screening in patients without previously known familial risk factors for MTC has proved to be effective in early detection of sporadic forms of MTC.

Hence, more thyroidectomies, based on increase serum calcitonin levels alone, can be expected, and surgical pathologists will be faced with an increasing number of total thyroidectomies.

Specimens from these patients make it possible to study early forms of sporadic C-cell carcinoma and probable precursor lesions.


Tumors can be staged according to the International Union Against Cancer (UICC).


With regard to predominant growth pattern and tumor cell morphology, tumors were classified as prototypic, follicular, spindle cell, or clear cell variants.

The presence of amyloid deposits can be recorded.

The percentage of calcitonin and CEA-positive cells can be estimated.

Molecular biology

Rearranged during transfection (RET) proto-oncogene plays a crucial role in MTC development.

Recent results from exome sequencing indicate that, besides mutations in RET, HRAS, and KRAS, no other recurrent driver mutations are present in MTC. (26285815)


- NF2 (75%) (14707871)
- l-myc (44%) (14707871)
- p53 (44%) (14707871)


- multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)
- Cowden disease (17603316)

See also

- C-cell hyperplasia


- Albores-Saavedra J, LiVolsi VA, Williams ED. Medullary carcinoma. Semin Diagn Pathol. 1985 May;2(2):137-46. PMID: 3843691

- McDermott MB, Swanson PE, Wick MR. Immunostains for collagen type IV discriminate between C-cell hyperplasia and microscopic medullary carcinoma in multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2a. Hum Pathol 1995;26:1308-312. PMID: 8522302