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Thymic epithelial tumours: from basic principles to individualised treatment strategies

Author(s): Nicolas Girard

Journal: European Respiratory Review
ISSN 0905-9180

Volume: 22;
Issue: 127;
Start page: 75;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Chemotherapy | myasthenia gravis | radiotherapy | surgery | thymic carcinoma | thymoma

Thymic epithelial tumours represent a wide range of anatomical, clinical, histological and molecular malignant entities that may be aggressive and difficult to treat. The histopathological classification distinguishes thymomas from thymic carcinomas. Thymomas may be associated with autoimmune disorders. The management of thymic epithelial tumours is a paradigm of co-operation between clinicians, surgeons and pathologists, from establishing the diagnosis to organising the multimodal therapeutic strategy. Surgery is the mainstay of the curative-intent treatment, as complete resection represents the most significantly favourable prognostic factor on overall survival. In case of invasion of intra-thoracic structures and/or dissemination to the pleura and the pericardium, precluding complete resection to be achieved, primary chemotherapy has been used to reduce the tumour burden, possibly allowing subsequent surgery and/or radiotherapy. Novel strategies are needed, especially for refractory, recurrent tumours and thymic carcinomas, which carry a poor prognosis. Personalised approaches are currently being developed, as potentially “druggable” molecular targets are emerging from recent integrated genomic analyses. Along with the large variety of questions relative to the treatment strategy, thymic epithelial tumours represent a model of therapeutic implementation and achievement in orphan thoracic oncology, showing how the advent of new results induces new questions, as well as diversifies further clinical research directions and international collaborative initiatives.
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