Tumor spread through air spaces (STAS), a significant prognostic indicator, has been described recently as a pattern of invasion in pulmonary carcinomas. However, questions remain regarding preoperative identification of STAS and whether it represents an in vivo phenomenon versus an ex vivo artifact.
We retrospectively reviewed 67 paired preoperative bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) or bronchial washing (BW) cytology specimens with the subsequent lung adenocarcinoma surgical resection specimen to determine whether preoperative cytology could predict STAS. Other clinical, radiologic, and pathologic features of the resected lesions were also correlated with preoperative bronchial cytology results.
Positive bronchial cytology was observed in 28 cases (41.8%), 24 of which had STAS (85.7%); however, negative BAL/BW cytology was observed in 39 cases (58.2%), 29 of which had STAS (74.4%) (x = 1.27, P = .26, not significant). High-STAS burden was observed in 44 cases (83.0%), 21 (47.7%) with negative BAL/BW and 23 (52.3%) with positive BAL/BW. Low-STAS burden was observed in 9 cases (17.0%), 8 (88.9%) with negative BAL/BW and only 1 (11.1%) with positive BAL/BW (x = 5.11, P = .024, significant). For tumors with STAS, a statistically significant difference was identified in the maximal STAS distance from the main tumor edge between BAL/BW-positive and BAL/BW-negative groups (P = .007). Of the remaining clinicopathologic and radiologic features, only visceral pleural invasion was significantly associated with BAL/BW positivity.
Presurgical bronchial cytology alone cannot adequately predict tumor STAS; however, it may provide useful information regarding the extent and overall burden of STAS on the subsequent resection specimen.