Head and Neck Acinic Cell Carcinoma: A New Grading System Proposal and Diagnostic Utility of NR4A3 Immunohistochemistry

Bin Xu, Maelle Saliba, Alan Ho, Kartik Viswanathan, Bayan Alzumaili, Snjezana Dogan, Ronald Ghossein, Nora Katabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Acinic cell carcinoma (AciCC) is traditionally considered as a low-grade salivary gland carcinoma. However, a subset demonstrates high-grade features with a higher mortality rate and distant metastasis. In this large retrospective study of 117 cases, we aimed to establish a histologic grading scheme for AciCC. Adverse independent prognostic factors identified on the multivariate analysis included older age, tumor necrosis, nuclear anaplasia, lymphovascular invasion, absence of tumor-associated lymphoid stroma, and high American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) pT and pN stages. A 3-tiered grading scheme using 4 pathologic parameters (mitotic index, necrosis, tumor border, and fibrosis at the frankly invasive front) was subsequently applied. Compared with low/intermediate-grade, high-grade AciCC defined as a mitotic index ≥5/10 HPFs and/or necrosis was an independently adverse prognostic factor. The 5-year overall survival was 50% in high-grade AciCCs, and 100% in low-grade or intermediate-grade AciCCs. Compared with low-grade or intermediate-grade AciCC, high-grade tumors were associated with older age, larger tumor size, focal rather than diffuse zymogen granules, solid architecture, infiltrative tumor border, fibrosis at the frankly invasive front, lymphovascular invasion, perineural invasion, positive margin, high pT, and pN stages. NR4A3 was a highly sensitive and specific immunohistochemical stain for diagnosing AciCC with a sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 93%, respectively. In conclusion, although we proposed a 2-tiered grading system for AciCC with high-grade tumors defined by a mitotic count ≥5/10 HPFs and/or necrosis, more studies are needed to assess the prognostic value of intermediate grade. NR4A3 immunohistochemical stain is a useful diagnostic marker for AciCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-941
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • NR4A3
  • acinic cell carcinoma
  • histologic grade
  • prognosis


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