Reproducibility of the WHO classification of thymomas: Practical implications

P. A. Zucali, L. Di Tommaso, I. Petrini, S. Battista, H. S. Lee, M. Merino, E. Lorenzi, E. Voulaz, F. De Vincenzo, M. Simonelli, M. Roncalli, L. Giordano, M. Alloisio, A. Santoro, G. Giaccone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The WHO-classification was shown to be an independent prognostic marker in some but not all retrospective studies possibly due to lack of reproducibility. We investigated the reproducibility of the WHO-classification and its prognostic implication using a large series of resected thymomas. Methods: Four independent pathologists histologically classified a surgical series of 129 thymic tumors in a blinded fashion. Fleiss' kappa-coefficient was used to assess the pathologists' overall agreement, and Cohen-Kappa to assess the agreement between two observers. Disease-related-survival (DRS) and progression-free-survival (PFS) curves were generated by Kaplan-Meier method and compared by log-rank test. Results: In 63/129 (48.8%) cases there was a complete agreement; in 43/129 (33.3%) cases 3/4 pathological diagnoses were identical; in 15/129 (11.6%) cases the diagnoses were identical by pair; in 8/129 (6.2%) cases three different pathological diagnoses were on record. The Kappa-correlation coefficient was only moderate (0.53). A following web review carried out on the 23 cases with at least two different diagnoses reached a complete consensus. The histotype showed a statistically significant impact on PFS and DRS in the classification provided by only two pathologists. Conclusions: In this study, the agreement on WHO classification of thymomas was only moderate and this impacted on patients management. Web consensus conference on the diagnosis, more stringent diagnostic criteria or the adoption of referral diagnostic centres may substantially reduce discrepancies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-241
Number of pages6
JournalLung Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Practical implications
  • Reproducibility
  • Thymomas
  • WHO classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cancer Research


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