Undifferentiated carcinoma with osteoclast-like giant cells of the pancreas and periampullary region

Kyle H. Molberg, Clara Heffess, Ruby Delgado, Jorge Albores-Saavedra

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148 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Undifferentiated carcinomas with osteoclast-like giant cells are rare pancreatic and periampulary neoplasms that morphologically mimic giant cell tumor of bone. Despite numerous publications based primarily on single case reports, the terminology, histogenesis, and biologic behavior of these tumors remain controversial. METHODS. The authors studied one periampullary and nine pancreatic neoplasms of this type. Immunohistochemistry was performed on nine of the cases and clinical follow- up data was obtained in eight. RESULTS. The neoplasms were large (average 9 cm), partially or completely multicystic, and hemorrhagic. Histologically, they were composed predominantly of ovoid or spindle-shaped bland mononuclear cells and evenly spaced osteoclast-like giant cells. However, three neoplasms had foci in which the nuclear pleomorphism of the mononuclear cells approached that observed in anaplastic spindle and giant cell carcinomas. Other histologic features included phagocytosis of the mononuclear cells by the osteoclast-like giant cells (in 7 of 10 cases), osteoid or bone formation (in 3 of 10 cases), and chondroid differentiation (in 1 of 10 cases). Four neoplasms had loci of conventional adenocarcinoma and two arose in preexisting mucinous cystic neoplasms of the pancreas. The mononuclear cells were positive for epithelial markers in six of nine tumors tested (cytokeratins AE-1, AE-3, Cam 5.2, and/or epithelial membrane antigen). They were negative for the histiocytic markers (CD-68, lysozyme) in all nine cases tested. In contrast, the osteoclast-like giant cells were positive for CD-68 in all nine cases, positive for lysozyme in four cases, and negative for cytokeratins (AE-1, AE-3, and Cam 5.2) in all nine cases. p53 stained the mononuclear tumor cells in three cases and MIB-1 stained the mononuclear tumor cells in four cases, but the osteoclast-like giant cells did not stain with either antibody in all nine cases tested. Most of the patients died of disease within 1 year of diagnosis; only 1 patient was alive and disease free 14 years after surgical excision. CONCLUSIONS. The association of these tumors with conventional adenocarcinoma or mucinous cystic neoplasms, the histologic features, and the immunohistochemical profile supports an epithelial phenotype for the mononuclear cells and a reactive histiocytic lineage for the nonneoplastic osteoclast-like giant cells. These neoplasms, which are better classified as undifferentiated carcinomas, follow an aggressive clinical course; most patients die of disease within 1 year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1279-1287
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998


  • Osteoclast-like giant cells
  • Pancreas
  • Periampullary
  • Undifferentiated carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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