Prostatic adenocarcinoma metastases mimicking small cell carcinoma on fine-needle aspiration

Anil V. Parwani, Syed Z. Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prostate adenocarcinoma (PA) is known to metastasize widely to bone, lung, lymph nodes, and other sites. We have observed a rare, although distinctive, neuroendocrine (NE) cytomorphology of metastatic PA on fine-needle aspiration (FNA) that mimics small cell carcinoma (SCC). From a total of 117 cases, eight cases of metastatic PA diagnosed on FNA showed cytomorphologic features indistinguishable from SCC. All specimens were reviewed, along with immunoperoxidase (IPOX) studies using prostate specific (PSA, PSAP) and NE markers (synaptophysin, chromogranin, etc.). The patients ranged in age from 51-68 (mean age = 63). The PSA levels at the time of FNA ranged from <0.1 to 2,892 ng/ml (normal postprostatectomy <0.2 ng/ml). Sites of FNA included liver (two), soft tissue (five), and lymph node (one). FNA was performed from 11 mo to 6 yr after the initial diagnosis of the primary tumor. All primary PA were of high Gleason grade ranging from 7-9. None of the primary PA showed neuroendocrine morphology. Cytomorphologic characteristics observed on FNA included predominantly single cells with occasional sheets or loose cell aggregates. A predominant NE nuclear morphology was evident (i.e., hyperchromasia, fine dusty chromatin, inconspicuous nucleoli, nuclear molding, chromatinic crush artifact, karyorrhexis, mitoses, etc.), with none of the tumors displaying glandular formation. Taken together, these features gave these metastases a cytomorphology indistinguishable from SCC. IPOX studies revealed PSA-positivity (5/7), PSAP-positivity (4/7), and only focal NE markers positivity (3/6). Metastatic prostate carcinoma may rarely mimic a SCC (6.8% in this study). This often necessitates further patient workup to identify the primary source for the patient's metastasis, particularly if the patient has multiple lesions. An accurate diagnosis of these lesions as PA metastases is essential for effective, timely treatment and therapeutic design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-79
Number of pages5
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 12 2002


  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Cytopathology
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Neuroendocrine
  • Prostate
  • Small cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology

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