Most medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs) are low grade and produce calcitonin. There are some calcitonin-negative MTCs that produce only calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Rarely, MTCs are negative for calcitonin and CGRP peptides, but contain their corresponding mRNAs. Primary thyroid neuroendocrine neoplasms other than MTCs are extremely rare. We describe a primary high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma that was negative for CGRP and calcitonin at both the protein and mRNA levels. A 42-year-old woman presented with a rapidly enlarging thyroid mass replacing most of the left lobe and isthmus. A computed tomography-guided core-needle biopsy was performed. The tumor was composed of sheets of small-to-medium sized epithelial cells. The cells were immunoreactive for pancytokeratin, synaptophysin, CD56 and thyroid transcription factor-1, but negative for CK7, CK20, CD45, CD99, ERG, chromogranin A, thyroglobulin, calcitonin, CGRP and carcinoembryonic antigen. The Ki-67 proliferation index was ~90%. In situ hybridization was negative for calcitonin mRNA. The patient was initially diagnosed as having a small cell carcinoma. She was treated with cisplatin and etoposide (VP16), followed by radiation therapy. Given the excellent clinical course, the tumor was reviewed and reclassified as a high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma (non-small-cell type). Heretofore, only a few other similar high-grade neuroendocrine tumors with negative markers of C-cell derivation have been reported. In our case, the patient is cancer free five years after diagnosis, but in the other cases, the outcome was poor.
There are neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid that do not produce calcitonin or calcitonin gene-related peptide.
This category of calcitonin-negative neuroendocrine carcinomas is heterogeneous, consisting of low- and high-grade tumors.
The high-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the thyroid are rare and generally have a poor prognosis. They are divided into small cell and non-small cell or large cell types.