Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is the most common salivary gland malignancy. Recent studies have shown that most MECs harbor gene fusions involving MAML2—an alteration that appears to be specific for MEC, a finding that could be diagnostically useful. While most cases of
MEC are histologically straightforward, uncommon variants can cause considerable diagnostic difficulty. We present 2 variants of MEC for which MAML2 studies were crucial in establishing a diagnosis: a previously undescribed ciliated variant, and the recently described Warthin-like variant.
All cases of ciliated and Warthin-like MEC were retrieved from the archives of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Break-apart fluorescence in situ hybridization for MAML2 was performed on all cases. One ciliated MEC and 6 Warthin-like MECs were identified. The ciliated MEC presented as a 4.6 cm
cystic lymph node metastasis originating from the tongue base in a 47-year-old woman. The Warthin-like MECs presented as parotid masses ranging in size from 1.2 to 3.3 (mean, 2.7 cm) in 4 women and 2 men. The ciliated MEC consisted of macrocystic spaces punctuated by tubulopapillary
proliferations of squamoid cells and ciliated columnar cells. The Warthin-like MECs were comprised of cystic spaces lined by multilayered oncocytic to squamoid cells surrounded by a circumscribed cuff of lymphoid tissue with germinal centers. In these cases, the Warthin-like areas dominated
the histologic picture. Conventional MEC, when present, represented a minor tumor component. MAML2 rearrangements were identified in all cases. Warthin-like MEC, and now a ciliated form of MEC, are newly described variants of a common salivary gland carcinoma. Unfamiliarity with these
novel forms, unanticipated cellular features (eg, cilia), and morphologic overlap with mundane benign processes (eg, developmental ciliated cysts, Warthin tumor) or other carcinomas (eg, ciliated human papillomavirus–related carcinoma) may render these variants susceptible to misdiagnosis.
These unusual variants appear to consistently harbor MAML2 fusions—a finding that establishes a clear link to conventional MEC and provides a valuable adjunct in establishing the diagnosis.
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Document Type: Research Article
Departments of Pathology, Oncology, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Departments of Pathology
Dahl-Chase Pathology Associates, Bangor, ME
Publication date: January 1, 2018