Primary Pulmonary Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma

Case Rep Pulmonol. 2015; 2015: 381276.
Published online 2015 Mar 8. doi: 10.1155/2015/381276
PMCID: PMC4370101
PMID: 25838959


Malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) is one of the most common adult soft tissue sarcomas. MFH is very aggressive and is most often found in the extremities and the retroperitoneum, but it can manifest at other sites. Though the lungs are the most common sites of metastasis, they rarely present there as a primary tumor. Our report describes a rare case of a primary MFH tumor in the lung. Careful diagnostic procedure should be followed to ensure the tumor does not have extrapulmonary origins. Though MFH is highly invasive and deadly, surgical excision of the tumor has been shown to be successful.

1. Introduction

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma is an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma originating from mesenchymal cells containing both fibroblasts and histiocytes [1]. MFH is one of the most common soft tissue sarcomas of adulthood and typically presents between the ages of fifty and seventy. Although these cancers can occur anywhere in the body, they are most commonly found in the extremities and retroperitoneum [2]. These tumors have a high propensity for metastasis with the lungs being the most common site for distant metastasis. Although MFH is most commonly found in the lungs as a metastatic lesion, it can in rare instances present as a primary lung malignancy. Since the first reported case of primary pulmonary MFH in 1979, there have been approximately fifty additional reported cases in the English literature [3, 4]. Our case report of this extremely rare malignancy adds to the current English literature.

2. Case Report

An eighty-six-year-old gentleman presented to his primary care physician with chief complaints of cough, dyspnea, and increasing weakness. His primary care physician ordered a chest X-ray which demonstrated a large mass in the right lung. Subsequently, a CT scan of the chest was ordered and demonstrated a large pleural-based cavitary lesion in right lower lobe measuring 8.2 × 7 cm (Figure 1(a)). A small pleural effusion was also noted. A PET/CT was performed which revealed a metabolically active solitary pulmonary mass with an elevated SUV of twenty-one (Figure 1(b)). There was no evidence of regional or distant metastases on imaging.

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Figure 1

(a) Large right pleural mass indicated by the arrow. (b) Intense PET dye reaction indicates presence of metabolically active mass; uptake in the core of the lesion is reduced, reflecting tissue necrosis, verified upon surgical resection.

A CT guided lung biopsy was performed with pathology revealing an undifferentiated lung carcinosarcoma. Special stains were ordered and the tumor was negative for pancytokeratin, TTF 1, cytokeratins 7 and 20, epithelial membrane antigen, prostate specific antigen, carcinoembryonic antigen, HMB-45, S-100 protein, smooth muscle actin, and desmin. The tumor was positive for vimentin and focally positive for CD68 and P63. High proliferative activity was seen with Ki-67 being positive in 80% of cells. This tumor morphology was highly suggestive but not diagnostic of pleomorphic sarcoma. However, it was felt that highly undifferentiated carcinoma could also have similar characteristics. As a result, the specimen was sent to Biotheranostics for cancer type ID which uses a real-time RT-PCR platform, the “gold” standard for gene-expression. The Biotheranostics assay demonstrated a greater than 90% probability of the tumor representing a sarcoma.

The patient was referred to thoracic surgery, as this was felt to provide the best chance for cure. The patient subsequently underwent flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy with washings and right posterior thoracotomy. A right middle and lower lobe bilobectomy with mediastinal lymph node dissection was performed. Final pathology noted a tumor size of 9.6 × 8.9 × 7.6 cm and confirmed the diagnosis of a pulmonary pleomorphic high grade carcinosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma (Figures (Figures22 and and3).3). All surgical margins and mediastinal lymph nodes were negative for tumor. The Enzinger-Weiss classification can be described as pleomorphic sarcoma [2]. Immunohistochemical stains revealed the tumor to be positive for vimentin. The patient recovered well from his surgery and is without evidence of disease six months later. The patient did not receive any adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as both were considered ineffective in this type of tumor.

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Figure 2

Hematoxylin and eosin stained section at 400x magnification demonstrating highly pleomorphic cells with prominent nucleoli in a storiform pattern. Multinucleated forms are also present.

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Figure 3

High power H & E stain photomicrograph demonstrating pleomorphic giant cells, spindle shaped fibroblasts, and histiocytes.

3. Discussion

As with our case presentation, primary pulmonary MFH appears to occur more frequently in elderly males; however, it can also present in women and in children [5, 6]. Presenting symptoms typically include cough, chest pain, and dyspnea [6, 7]. Other less frequent presenting symptoms include hemoptysis, fatigue, and weight loss. Rarely patients may be asymptomatic at presentation [7].

Radiographically, Reifsnyder et al. noted that seventy-five percent of patients with MFH of the lung presented with a solitary pulmonary nodule on imaging. Bilateral pulmonary nodules and pleural effusions were noted in ten percent of patients [8]. On computed tomography (CT) these tumors generally appear as soft tissue density lesions with or without central areas of attenuation [9]. CT of the chest also helps determine mediastinal involvement or subdiaphragmatic extension, as locoregional spread is not uncommon. We believe positron emission tomography (PET) imaging can be of great utility in ruling out a primary source elsewhere in the body, particularly the retroperitoneum.

Microscopically, MFH is composed of spindle shaped fibroblasts and histiocytes with atypical pleomorphic giant cells in varying proportions [10]. Five distinct histologic subtypes have been described: storiform-pleomorphic, myxoid, giant cell, inflammatory, and angiomatoid [2, 11]. The most common histologic subtype noted in primary pulmonary MFH is storiform-pleomorphic [6]. The marked cellular pleomorphism and atypia along with numerous mitotic figures found in primary pulmonary MFH distinguish it from benign fibrous histiocytic tumors of the lung which have also been reported [12–14].

Specific immunohistochemical stains for MFH do not exist. However, other sarcomas with similar microscopic findings can be excluded with immunohistochemical staining. As a result, stains for desmin, actin, vimentin, keratin, and neurogenic tumors are commonly obtained [6].

The prognosis for patients with primary pulmonary MFH in general is poor, yet survival in these patients can be variable. Our review of the literature generated 55 other reported cases (see Table 1) with survival in excess of 10 years [3–34]. Most patients were treated with surgical resection. These malignancies are aggressive and demonstrate a propensity for both local recurrence and distant metastasis. Nevertheless there are several reports of patients with long term survival [6, 15]. In fact, survival after complete surgical excision with clear margins for primary pulmonary MFH is reported to be better than for other pulmonary sarcomas [15]. As would be expected, a poorer prognosis is noted in those with advanced stage disease, incomplete resection, tumor invasion of the mediastinum or chest wall, recurrence, and presence of metastasis, thus underlining the importance of early diagnosis and surgical treatment [16].

Table 1

References, case listing, and treatment, comprising follow-up survival.

Reference Age Sex Site Size (cm) LN Treatment F/U (mos)
Bedrossian et al. [3] 51 M LLL/RML 2/4 NEG Lobectomy DOD (14)
Kern et al. [18] 53 M RLL 8 NEG Lobectomy DOD (12)
Chowdhury et al. [21] 52 F RLL 5 UNK Chemotherapy DOD (4)
Tsangaridou et al. [5] 65 F RML 11.5 NEG Pneumonectomy/chemotherapy DOD (5)
Paulson et al. [22] 53 F LLL 4 NEG Lobectomy DOD (36)
Mills et al. [23] 60 F RLL 10 NEG Lobectomy AWD (18)
Sriumpai et al. [24] 41 M RLL 9 UNK Lobectomy DOD (18)
Misra et al. [25] 45 M RLL 16 POS XRT DOD (10)
Larsen et al. [26] 75 M RUL 2.5 NEG Wedge resection NED (10)
62 M LLL 6 NEG Lobectomy NED (12)
54 M LUL 7 NEG Chemotherapy DOD (7)
Lee et al. [27] 69 M RUL 8 NEG Pneumonectomy/XRT NED (8)
62 F LLL 5 NEG Lobectomy/XRT NED (120)
67 M LUL 4 NEG Lobectomy NED (60)
Lessel and Erbstösser [28] 35 F RLL 25 UNK None DOD (12)
Silverman and Coalson [29] 56 M LUL 8 NEG Chemotherapy AWD (3)
Tanino et al. [30] 75 M LUL 5 POS None DOD (5)
McDonnell et al. [10] 73 F LLL 6.5 NEG Lobectomy DOD (3)
Hsiu et al. [31] 71 F RUL 5 NEG Lobectomy NED (10)
Juettner et al. [32] 58 M RLL 5.5 POS Lobectomy DOD (12)
68 M LLL 20 NEG None DOD (12)
Ismailer et al. [33] 12 F RUL 9 NEG Lobectomy AWD (12)
54 F RLL 1.7 NEG Lobectomy NED (108)
33 M RUL 3.8 NEG Lobectomy NED (84)
59 M RLL 5.9 NEG Lobectomy NED (65)
73 F LUL 8.5 POS Pneumonectomy NED (36)
64 M RUL 5 NEG Lobectomy/XRT NED (16)
42 F LLL 3 NEG Lobectomy NED (122)
57 F RUL 4 NEG Pneumonectomy DNED (1)
80 M LUL 3 NEG Lobectomy DNED (1)
74 M LUL UNK NEG None DOD (2)
18 M RLL 10 NEG Lobectomy DOD (1)
Yousem and Hochholzer [7] 46 F RUL 6 POS Lobectomy/XRT DOD (8)
52 F RLL UNK NEG Chemotherapy DOD (9)
52 F LUL 4 POS Lobectomy/chemotherapy/XRT DOD (72)
74 F RUL 14 POS Lobectomy DOD (24)
69 F RUL 8 NEG XRT DOD (36)
40 F LLL 4 NEG Lobectomy/XRT DOD (24)
19 M LUL UNK NEG Lobectomy/chemotherapy/XRT DOD (14)
63 M LLL 7 NEG None DOD (14)
36 M RLL 3 NEG Excisional biopsy DOD (12)
32 M LLL 11 POS Pneumonectomy/chemotherapy/XRT DOD (3)
Casey and Peddle [34] 21 M RUL 3 NEG Lobectomy NED (96)
46 M LLL 10 NEG Lobectomy NED (8)
Palmer et al. [19] 62 F RLL UNK NEG Lobectomy DOD (14)
White et al. [20] 55 M RUL UNK UNK None DOD (4)
Mills et al. [23] 49 M RML/RLL 5.5 NEG Lobectomy UNK
Marchan and Perez [4] 10 F LLL 5 NEG Lobectomy UNK
Halyard et al. [6] 51 F LLL 12 NEG Lobectomy/XRT NED (60)
77 M RML 2.2 NEG Lobectomy NED (36)
38 M LLL 11 NEG Excisional biopsy DOD (30)
57 M LUL 7.5 POS Lobectomy DOD (1)
Tsangaridou et al. [5] UNK M LLL UNK NEG Pneumonectomy AWD (168)
Current Case 86 M RML/RLL 9.6 NEG Lobectomy NED (6)
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M = male; F = female; LLL = left lower lobe; RUL = right upper lobe; RML = right middle lobe; RLL = right lower lobe; UNK = unknown; NEG = negative; POS = positive; XRT = radiation therapy; DOD = dead of disease; NED = no evidence of disease; DNED = dead, no evidence of disease; AWD = alive with disease.

Complete surgical resection with clear margins is the mainstay of treatment and yields the best chance for long term survival. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy in primary pulmonary MFH are generally considered ineffective. Systemic chemotherapy has typically been reserved for patients with metastatic disease. The role of radiation therapy is uncertain; however, some studies have advocated adjuvant radiotherapy ([6, 16] and Table 1).

Close follow-up is important as local recurrence is common and early metastasis particularly to the brain is not uncommon [12, 17, 18]. The propensity of these tumors for metastasis is postulated to be due to their high incidence of vascular invasion, which was noted in as many as fifty percent of specimens in one study [19].

In conclusion, primary pulmonary MFH is a rare malignancy with several reported cases. As metastatic MFH lesions are more commonly noted in the lungs, patients suspected with a primary pulmonary MFH should undergo a comprehensive diagnostic workup to rule out an extrapulmonary primary origin. Although these tumors are believed to be highly aggressive with a relatively high mortality rate and a relatively high incidence of local recurrence and distant metastasis, long term survival is possible and has been reported in several studies. The most widely accepted treatment is complete surgical excision with clear margins.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.


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Devin P. Patel, Yogesh S. Gandhi, Keith E. Sommers, Devanand Mangar, and Enrico M. Camporesi *

Devin P. Patel

Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA

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Yogesh S. Gandhi

Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA

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Keith E. Sommers

Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA

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Devanand Mangar

Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA

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Enrico M. Camporesi

Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA

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Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL 33606, USA
*Enrico M. Camporesi: ude.fsu.htlaeh@eropmace
Academic Editor: Akif Turna
Received 2014 Nov 11; Revised 2015 Feb 24; Accepted 2015 Feb 25.
Copyright © 2015 Devin P. Patel et al.
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