Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology
Home About us Instructions Submission Subscribe Advertise Contact e-Alerts Ahead Of Print Login 
Users Online: 1124
Print this page  Email this page Bookmark this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size

CASE REPORT Table of Contents   
Year : 2009  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 103-105
Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of parotid gland: A rare occurrence

1 Department of Pathology, SMV Medical College, Madagadipet, Pondicherry, India
2 Department of E.N.T., SMV Medical College, Madagadipet, Pondicherry, India

Click here for correspondence address and email


Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma (PLGA) is a rare salivary gland malignant tumor of low aggressiveness, commonly occurring in minor salivary glands. Its occurrence in major salivary gland has been documented albeit rarely. The striking histological feature is architectural diversity combined with benign cytologic features. We report a case of PLGA arising from left parotid in a 25-year-old male patient. On light microscopy, varied patterns were seen .The cells were uniform with bland nuclei. Neural invasion was noted.

Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma, polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma, parotid, pleomorphic adenoma, salivary gland neoplasm

How to cite this article:
Arathi N, Bage AM. Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of parotid gland: A rare occurrence. Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2009;52:103-5

How to cite this URL:
Arathi N, Bage AM. Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of parotid gland: A rare occurrence. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2009 [cited 2023 May 29];52:103-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma (PLGA) is a low-grade malignant tumor of salivary glands, most often arising from minor salivary glands with palate being a common site. Much less frequently cases have been described in major glands, usually but not always against a background of pleomorphic adenoma. Histologically various architectural patterns (like tubular, cribriform, papillary and solid) are seen with bland cytological features. Infiltration into the surrounding tissues is seen. Perineural invasion is noted in many cases.

We describe the clinicopathologic features of a case of PLGA arising from parotid gland.

   Case Report Top

A 25-year-old male patient presented with a painful left parotid gland swelling with a duration of 6 months. The nodule was retroauricular, firm to hard on palpation and measured 3 x 3 cm. A diagnosis of chronic parotitis was considered and superficial parotidectomy was done.

Per-operatively, the lesion was retroauricular, hard and compressed a branch of facial nerve.

Pathological findings

Grossly, the tumor was well circumscribed but unencapsulated, lobulated and measured 3 x 3 x 1.5 cm; cut section was solid, pale white, homogeneous and firm. Adjacent normal looking salivary gland measured 4 x 3 x 0.5 cm.

Microscopically architectural variability was striking, with the following patterns - glandular, tubular, trabecular and solid [Figure 1a],[Figure 1b]. An occasional papillary area was seen. The glands and tubules were lined by a single layer of cells. The cells were round to ovoid to polyhedral, with the cytoplasm varying from eosinophilic to clear. Nuclear features were bland with vesicular nucleus, some showing inconspicuous nucleolus [Figure 2]. Hyperchromasia or mitoses were not seen. Lumen showed eosinophilic material at places, which was variably PAS positive. There were no areas of necrosis. Stroma showed extensive hyalinization. An area of neural invasion was noted. Periglandular adipose tissue showed invasion. There were no areas reminiscent of pleomorphic adenoma.

   Discussion Top

The term polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma (PLGA) was first introduced by Evans and Batsakis [1] to describe a specific category of salivary gland tumor amongst a host of heterogeneous salivary gland tumor labeled as adenocarcinoma "not otherwise specified." The 14 intraoral tumors in this group showed histologic diversity with cytologic uniformity. The behavior of these tumors was one of local aggressiveness with a potential for metastasis to regional lymph nodes.

In the second edition of WHO classification of salivary gland tumors published in 1991, it was classified under a separate category.[2] PLGA commonly involves minor salivary glands; however, it has been described in major glands. [3],[4] In the largest study of 164 cases from AFIP files, all were in minor salivary glands with palate being the commonest site. [5] Rare intraosseous cases have been described. [6] Clinically, wide age range has been described (23 to 94 years) with duration of symptoms ranging from few days to 40 years. [5] In the series of Castle et al. , [5] the typical presentation was that of an asymptomatic mass lesion. A small number of patients (13 out of 164 cases) presented with mass accompanied by pain, bleeding or ulceration. However, these patients did not have more aggressive disease nor were they more prone to develop recurrences. Grossly, the tumor is usually unencapsulated, well circumscribed, lobular and firm.

Microscopically various architectural patterns could be seen in different areas (glandular, trabecular, tubular, cribriform, "Indian file" and solid). Luminal eosinophilic material seen in our case has not been commonly described. Myxoid change in the background can be seen. In contrast to architectural polymorphism, the nuclei are uniform and bland with absent or negligible mitoses. Castle et al . [5] detected neurotropism in majority of cases with a targetoid appearance due to concentrically arranged tumor cells around central nerve twig.

The differential diagnoses of PLGA include adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) and pleomorphic adenoma. Both ACC and PLGA can have similar architectural patterns; however, the cells in ACC tend to be smaller with hyperchromatic nuclei and coarser chromatin. Mitoses are numerous. It is important to differentiate these two entities, as the prognosis and treatment are significantly different. A study by Penner et al . [7] explores the role of c-kit in differentiating PLGA from adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC). The study supports a role for c-kit IHC in the differential diagnosis of ACC and PLGA, but the authors opine that more number of cases needs to be evaluated to draw firm conclusions.

The infiltrative growth pattern is an important diagnostic clue favoring PLGA when the differential includes pleomorphic adenoma. Neurotropism, if present, also favors PLGA. Various immunohistochemical markers have been found to be positive like vimentin, cytokeratin, S-100, CEA, SMA and GFAP. [4],[5],[6],[7] Proliferative markers like Ki-67 and p53 show variability in intensity and percentage of cells positive but generally the intensity is weak. [5]

The study conducted by Castle et al . [5] on 164 cases of PLGA arising from minor salivary gland showed excellent long-term prognosis. Local recurrences can occur. Rarely regional lymph node metastasis and distant (lung) metastasis have been documented. [1],[5] There is no large series study of PLGA cases arising from major gland. Nagao et al . [4] opine that PLGAs of minor and major salivary glands have similar clinicopathologic characteristics. Rare cases undergoing transformation to a higher grade have been described, with a possibility of radiation therapy playing a role in the transformation. [8]

In conclusion, this relatively new entity of salivary gland tumor though common in minor glands can arise from the major salivary gland. Variability in architectural pattern with bland cytological features is a diagnostic clue for PLGA, along with peripheral infiltration and perineural invasion.

   References Top

1.Evans HL, Batsakis JG. Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of minor salivary glands: A study of 14 cases of a distinctive neoplasm. Cancer 1984;53:935-42.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  
2.Seifert G, Sobin LH. The world health organization's histological classification of salivary gland tumors: A commentary on the second edition. Cancer 1992;70:379-85.   Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  
3.Yokoi H, Wada R, Enomoto F, Masato F, Ichikawa G. Polymorphous low grade adenocarcinoma of the parotid gland. Aust J Otolaryngol 2003;6:42-4.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Nagao T, Gaffey TA, Kay PA, Minato H, Serizawa H, Lewis JE. Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of the major salivary glands: Report of three cases in an unusual location. Histopathology 2004;44:164-71.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
5.Castle JT, Thompson LD, Fromelt RA, Wenig BM, Kessler HP. Polymorphous low grade adenocarcinoma: A clinicopathologic study of 164 cases. Cancer 1999;86:207-18.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.De Magalhaes MH, De Magalhaes RP, De Araujo VC, De Sousa S. Polymorphous low grade adenocarcinoma presenting an uncommon radiographic aspect. Dentomaxillofac Radiol 2006;35:209-12.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Penner CR, Folpe AL, Budnick SD. C-Kit expression distinguishes salivary gland adenoid cystic carcinoma from polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma. Mod Pathol 2002;15:687-91.  Back to cited text no. 7  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
8.Pelkey TJ, Mills SE. Histologic transformation of polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of Salivary gland. Am J Clin Pathol 1999;111:785-91.  Back to cited text no. 8  [PUBMED]  

Correspondence Address:
N Arathi
173, 12 B Main, 6th Block, Rajaji Nagar, Bangalore - 560 010
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0377-4929.44985

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1a], [Figure 1b], [Figure 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Polymorphous adenocarcinoma of the sublingual gland: A case report and literature review
Toshiyuki Nakasone, Akiko Matsuzaki, Koichi Tamasiro, Nao Sunagawa, Shimpei Goto, Fusahiro Hirano, Shoko Makishi, Akira Matayoshi
Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Medicine, and Pathology. 2021; 33(5): 561
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma: A case report
Singh, A., Bastian, T.S., Ceena Denny, E.
Medico-Legal Update. 2011; 11(1): 95-96
3 Polymorphous low-grade adenocarcinoma of left parotid gland
Gelincik, I., Bayram, I., Cankaya, H.
Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology. 2010; 53(1): 166-167


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded351    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 3    

Recommend this journal