Fumarate hydratase (FH)–deficient renal cell carcinoma (RCC) rarely exhibits a predominant tubulocystic architecture with few other components. RCC with pure tubules and cysts lined by eosinophilic tumor cells with prominent nucleoli would raise the diagnosis of tubulocystic RCC. It is important to differentiate the 2 entities because they lead to different outcomes.


To address the concern, a multicenter study was implemented to explore useful clinicopathologic features in differentiation between tubulocystic FH-deficient RCC and tubulocystic RCC.


Clinical factors included age, sex, tumor size, and outcome. Morphologic factors included cell morphology, presence or absence of a nontubulocystic component, and stromal findings. Immunohistochemistry, fluorescence in situ hybridization, and next-generation sequencing were performed to explore the protein expression and molecular profiles of the 2 entities.


We evaluated 6 patients with tubulocystic RCC and 10 patients with tubulocystic FH-deficient RCC. Tubulocystic RCC exhibited a small size (<4.0 cm, pT1a), low Ki-67 index (<5%), retained FH, and negative 2SC expression. Tubulocystic FH-deficient RCC had a relatively large size and a high Ki-67 index. Perinucleolar haloes, loss of FH, and 2SC positivity were always observed. Pure tubulocystic architecture was not observed in FH-deficient RCC, because focal nontubulocystic components can always be seen.


We emphasized multiple sectioning to identify a nontubulocystic architecture to exclude tubulocystic RCC. Moreover, tumor size, FH/2SC staining, and the Ki-67 index can differentiate tubulocystic FH-deficient RCC from tubulocystic RCC. The diagnosis of tubulocystic RCC was not recommended in renal mass biopsy because of the limited tissues sampled.

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Yang, Liu, and H. Wang contributed equally to this work

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (82002667), Ningbo Medical Science and Technology Project (2020Y30), the Project of Ningbo Leading Medical & Health Discipline (2022-F30), and the Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission (20Z11900303).

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

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