OBJECTIVE: To study the clinical, pathologic, and genetic features of thymic carcinoids in the setting of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and to study means for detection and prevention of this tumor in patients with MEN1. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Thymic carcinoid is a rare malignancy, with approximately 150 cases reported to date. It may be associated with MEN1 and carries a poor prognosis, with no effective treatment. Its underlying etiology is unknown. METHODS: Ten patients with MEN1 from eight families with anterior mediastinal tumors were included in a case series study at tertiary referring hospitals. Clinicopathologic studies were done on these patients, with a review of the literature. Mutation analysis was performed on the MEN1 gene in families with clusterings of the tumor to look for genotype-phenotype correlation. Loss of heterozygosity was studied in seven cases to look for genetic abnormalities. RESULTS: Histologic studies of all tumors were consistent with the diagnosis of thymic carcinoid. Clustering of this tumor was found in some of the families-three pairs of brothers and three families with first- or second-degree relatives who had thymic carcinoid. All patients described here were men, with a mean age at detection of 44 years (range 31 to 66). Most of the patients had chest pain or were asymptomatic; none had Cushing's or carcinoid syndrome. All tumors were detected by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the chest. The results of octreoscans performed in three patients were all positive. Histopathologic studies were consistent with the diagnosis of thymic carcinoid and did not stain for ACTH. Mutation analysis of the families with clustering revealed mutations in different exons/introns of the MEN1 gene. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) studies of seven tumors did not show LOH in the MEN1 region, but two tumors showed LOH in the 1p region. CONCLUSIONS: MEN1-related thymic carcinoids constitute approximately 25% of all cases of thymic carcinoids. In patients with MEN1, this is an insidious tumor not associated with Cushing's or carcinoid syndrome. Local invasion, recurrence, and distant metastasis are common, with no known effective treatment. We propose that CT or MRI of the chest, as well as octreoscanning, should be considered as part of clinical screening in patients with MEN1. We also propose performing prophylactic thymectomy during subtotal or total parathyroidectomy on patients with MEN1 to reduce the risks of thymic carcinoid and recurrence of hyperparathyroidism. Its male predominance, the absence of LOH in the MEN1 region, clustering in close relatives, and the presence of different MEN1 mutations in these families suggest the involvement of modifying genes in addition to the MEN1 gene. A putative tumor suppressor gene in 1p may be involved. Images Figure 1. Figure 2. Figure 3.