Insulinoma-associated protein-1 (INSM1) is a recently developed immunohistochemical marker claimed to be highly specific and sensitive for the diagnosis of neuroendocrine malignancies. Recent studies, however, have demonstrated that this marker can also be expressed in non-neuroendocrine neoplasms including squamous cell carcinoma of the thymus.


To examine INSM1 expression in lymphoepithelial thymic carcinomas.


Thirty-four cases of lymphoepithelial carcinoma of the thymus were examined by immunohistochemistry or in situ hybridization for INSM1, synaptophysin, chromogranin, CD5, CD117, Epstein-Barr virus–encoded small ribonucleic acid (EBER), and Ki-67. Basic clinical information was abstracted from the medical record.


The patients were 14 women and 20 men, aged 20 to 85 years. The tumors arose in the anterior mediastinum without any previous history or evidence of malignancy at other sites. Immunohistochemical staining showed moderate to strong positivity of the tumor cells for INSM1 in 65% of cases (22 of 34), focal weak positivity in 20% (7 of 34), and negative staining in 5 cases. Chromogranin staining was focally and weakly positive in 1 case, and synaptophysin showed only focal weak positivity in scattered tumor cells in 12 cases. No significant correlation could be identified between the pattern and intensity of staining for INSM1 and staining for CD5, CD117, and Ki-67.


INSM1 positivity in lymphoepithelial carcinoma of the thymus may represent a pitfall for diagnosis, particularly in small biopsy samples. Awareness of this finding may be of importance to avoid misdiagnosis of neuroendocrine malignancy.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. See text for hyperlink.

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

Supplementary data