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Journal of Thoracic Oncology:
doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318284378f
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“Pseudocavitation” in Thymic Carcinoma During Treatment with Sunitinib

Tiseo, Marcello MD, PhD*; Rajan, Arun MD*; Thomas, Anish MD*; Giaccone, Giuseppe MD, PhD*

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*Medical Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.

Marcello Tiseo, MD, PhD is currently affiliated with the Medical Oncology Unit, University Hospital, Parma, Italy.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Address for correspondence: Giuseppe Giaccone, MD, PhD, Chief, Medical Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, 12N/226, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892. E-mail:

A 45-year-old man with stage IVA thymic carcinoma was enrolled on a phase II study of sunitinib (50 mg daily)1 4 weeks after disease progression on first-line chemotherapy with cisplatin, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and belinostat.2 Molecular profiling of the tumor revealed only a p53 gene mutation (c-Kit was wild type).3

Baseline chest computed tomography, before sunitinib, showed a mediastinal mass with compression of the proximal right main pulmonary artery (Fig. 1A) and direct invasion of pericardium. Three weeks after initiation of sunitinib, the patient reported increased left shoulder pain, cough, nausea, vomiting, and a palpable soft and fluctuating lesion measuring 2 cm in size overlying the sternum. A new computed tomography scan (Fig. 1B–D) showed an increase in the size of the mediastinal mass, which now included air (Fig. 1B–D, asterisk), air-fluid levels (Fig. 1B, D, arrow), dissection in the anterior chest wall with subcutaneous air (Fig. 1C, double arrow), and a large left pleural effusion (Fig. 1B–D). Sunitinib was discontinued, and a thoracentesis was performed to remove a liter of straw-colored fluid. Considering disease progression with tumor necrosis and superimposed infection with the possibility of bronchocutaneous fistula, antibiotic therapy was started. Subsequently, the patient’s clinical condition deteriorated rapidly with development of right ventricular heart failure, and he died 2 weeks later. The autopsy revealed massive neoplastic infiltration of the heart and great vessels, including the pulmonary artery and left lung, with abundant tumor necrosis, most likely related to rapid progression of disease rather than antiangiogenesis effects of sunitinib. This represents an unusual finding in a patient with an aggressive thymic carcinoma.

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1. A Phase 2 Study of Sunitinib in Patients with Advanced Relapsed or Refractory Thymoma or Thymic Carcinoma with at Least One Prior Line of Platinum-Based Systemic Chemotherapy. NCT01621568.

2. A Phase 1/2 Study of PXD101 (Belinostat) in Combination With Cisplatin, Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide in the First Line Treatment of Advanced or Recurrent Thymic, Malignancies. NCT01100944.

3. Pilot Trial of Molecular Profiling and Targeted Therapy for Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, Small Cell Lung Cancer, and Thymic Malignancies. NCT01306045.

© 2013International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer


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