Primary squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid gland: an entity with aggressive clinical behaviour and distinctive cytokeratin profiles.
Aims: Primary squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid gland is uncommon. This study aims to identify the clinicopathological features and the pattern of expression of cytokeratins and oncoproteins in this tumour. Methods and results: Histological slides from Chinese patients with thyroid cancer treated in our institution from 1980 to 1999 were reviewed. Patients with primary squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid were identified and their clinical records were analysed. The expression of cytokeratins (CKs), p53 and p21 in these cases were also studied by an immunohistochemical method. Four women (mean age 71 years) with squamous cell carcinoma of thyroid were found. The main presenting features were signs and symptoms of airway obstruction in three patients and neck swelling in one. The tumours were located at the right lobe (n=2), left lobe (n=1) or in both lobes of the thyroid (n=1). One patient died shortly after admission and the other three died within 4 months after thyroidectomy. The p53 protein was positive in 50% (2/4) of the tumours and p53+ tumours were poorly differentiated. The tumours were negative for p21. CK19 was expressed in all the tumours while CK7 expression was noted in 3/4 of the tumours. One carcinoma showed focal positivity to CK18. The tumours were negative for CKs 1, 4, 6, 10/13 and 20. The pattern of cytokeratin expression in squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid gland was different from carcinoma showing thymus-like differentiation (CASTLE) of the thyroid gland and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Conclusions: Squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid has aggressive clinical behaviour and characteristic CK expression pattern. p53 over-expression in these tumours was associated with tumour differentiation.