Cytomorphologic features of intraductal salivary gland carcinoma: A multi-institutional study of 13 FNA cases with histologic, molecular, and clinical correlations

Kartik Viswanathan, Peter M. Sadow, Zahra Maleki, Michiya Nishino, Zubair W. Baloch, Todd E. Abbott, Rema Rao, William C. Faquin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Intraductal carcinoma of the salivary gland (IDC) is a rare cancer with potential actionable targets, including RET fusions. Histologic and molecular features of IDC were recently reported, but cytomorphologic data are limited. In the largest multi-institutional fine-needle aspiration (FNA) series, the authors describe the cytomorphologic features of 13 IDC cases with available clinical, radiologic, histopathologic, and molecular data. Methods: The cases included 13 FNAs for 9 low-grade (LG) IDCs and 4 high-grade (HG) IDCs with corresponding histopathology and available molecular, imaging, and clinical data. Smears and liquid-based preparations available for 12 FNAs were semiquantitatively scored for key cytomorphologic findings and correlated with the corresponding resection. Results: LG IDC FNAs showed a cellular, biphasic population of large, atypical ductal cells with mildly pleomorphic nuclei in a clean background and a minor population of small, uniform myoepithelial cells. In contrast, all HG IDC FNAs showed predominantly ductal cells with marked nuclear pleomorphism, coarse chromatin, and necrosis. With the Milan system, most LG and HG IDC FNAs were classified as either salivary gland neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential (54%) or malignant (31%). Immunohistochemistry showed ductal epithelial reactivity with mammaglobin, androgen receptor, and S100, whereas myoepithelial cells were positive for p63 and/or calponin. Among cases with next-generation sequencing, 4 LG IDCs showed NCOA4-RET gene fusions, whereas an HG IDC showed HRAS and PIK3CA mutations. Conclusions: The cytomorphology of IDC overlaps with other benign and malignant salivary gland neoplasms. Immunohistochemistry limits the differential diagnosis, but definitive classification requires molecular analysis. A diagnosis of IDC has potential implications for patient management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-946
Number of pages19
JournalCancer Cytopathology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Milan system
  • RET fusions
  • cytomorphology
  • fine-needle aspiration
  • histology
  • intraductal carcinoma
  • molecular genetics
  • salivary gland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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