What clinicians are asking pathologists when dealing with lung neuroendocrine neoplasms?

Giuseppe Pelosi, Alessandra Fabbri, Mara Cossa, Angelica Sonzogni, Barbara Valeri, Luisella Righi, Mauro Papotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lung neuroendocrine tumors (NET) are currently classified in resection specimens according to four histological categories, namely typical carcinoid (TC), atypical carcinoid (AC), large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) and small cell carcinoma (SCC). Diagnostic criteria have remained unchanged in the 2015 WHO classification, which has ratified the wide acceptance and popularity of such terminology in the pathologists[U+05F3] and clinicians community. A unifying umbrella of NE morphology and differentiation has been recognized in lung NET, which has pushed to enter an unique box of invasive tumors along with diffuse idiopathic pulmonary NE cell hyperplasia (DIPNECH) as a pre-invasive lesion with a potential toward the development of carcinoids. However, uncertainties remain in the terminology of lung NET upon small samples, where Ki-67 antigen could play some role to avoid misdiagnosing carcinoids as high-grade NE tumors. Epidemiologic, clinical and genetic traits support a biological three-tier over a pathology four-tier model, according to which TC are low malignancy tumors, AC intermediate malignancy tumors and LCNEC/SCC high malignancy tumors with no significant differences in survival among them. Inconsistencies in diagnostic reproducibility, troubles in the therapy of AC and LCNEC, and limitations to histology within the same tumor category argue in favor of a global re-thinking of lung NET where a grading system could play a role. This review outlines three main key questions in the field of lung NET: (A) unbiased diagnoses, (B) the role of Ki-67 and tumor grading, and (C) management of predictive markers. Answers are still inconclusive, thus additional research is required to improve our understanding on lung NET.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-479
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Diagnostic Pathology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Carcinoid
  • Diagnosis
  • Grading
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67
  • Large cell
  • Molecular pathology
  • Neuroendocrine
  • Predictive
  • Prognosis
  • Small cell
  • Survival
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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