Cystic Salivary Gland Neoplasms: Diagnostic Approach with a Focus on Ancillary Studies

Efrain A. Ribeiro, Zahra Maleki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cystic salivary gland cytology can be challenging due to the fact that a cystic mass can be the clinical presentation of both non-neoplastic and neoplastic conditions. Neoplastic lesions consist of both benign and malignant neoplasms. The cytomorphologic features of these entities can overlap and the cystic background may additionally contribute to the complexity of these lesions and their interpretation. Ancillary studies have been reported in several studies to be beneficial in further characterization of the cellular components and subsequent diagnosis of the cystic lesions of the salivary gland. Fluorescence in situ hybridization, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and next-generation sequencing are now being utilized to detect molecular alterations in salivary gland neoplasms. MALM2 rearrangement is the most common gene fusion in mucoepidermoid carcinoma. PLAG1 rearrangement is present in more than half of pleomorphic adenomas. AKT1:E17K mutation is the key diagnostic feature of the mucinous adenocarcinoma. NR4A3 overexpression is highly sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of acinic cell carcinoma. MYB fusion is noted in adenoid cystic carcinoma. ETV6:NTRK3 fusion is helpful in diagnosis of secretory carcinoma. p16 and human papillomavirus (HPV) studies differentiate HPV-related squamous cell carcinoma from non-HPV-related neoplasms with overlapping features. NCOA4:RET fusion protein is the main fusion in intraductal carcinoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in anatomic pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • ancillary studies
  • cyst
  • cystic salivary gland
  • cytology
  • fine-needle aspiration
  • parotid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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