South Korea is a country with a population of 56.5 million over an area similar in size to Hungary. There are 40 colleges of medicine and 10 are located in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. There are 5 major health care facilities and 70 university hospitals in which major thoracic surgery is possible. About 10 hospitals operate on more than 10 cases thymic epithelial tumors (TETs) per year. Currently there are no official statistics on TET. Korean Association for Research on the Thymus (KART) was established in January 2014 with the following members: Asan Medical Center, Samsung Seoul hospital, Seoul national university hospital and Severance hospital, known to be the top four hospitals with the most amount of surgical cases on TET. The aim of KART is to establish a multi-center database of TET and present the clinical features and treatment outcomes of TET in Korea. The KART database was based on the International Thymic Malignancy Interest Group (ITMIG) database system for retrospective data collection and comprises 313 fields. There were 1,462 cases of thymoma and thymic carcinoma which were collected retrospectively from Jan 2000 to Dec 2013. The male to female ratio was 783:679; mean age 51.5±12.9. The average size of the TET was 6.1±3.1 cm and myasthenia gravis coexisted in 317 patients. Thymoma was 80% and thymic carcinoma was 19%. In the surgical approach, sternotomy or thoracotomy consisted of 62% and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robot-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS) 35%. However, with the increase in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) starting from 2008, more than 50% of the operations are currently minimally invasive. Operations consisted of 90% R0 resections, 8% R1 resections, and 2% R2 resections. The mean hospital stay was 8.6±10.5 days; operative mortality occurred in 5 patients (0.3%) (Table 1). Masaoka-Koga stage I consisted of 34%, stage IIA 22% and stage IIB 17% (Figure 1). The overall 5- and 10-year survival rate were 90% and 76% respectively (Figure 2). As the Masaoka-Koga stage progressed, the survival rates decreased (Figure 3). Among the 1,115 thymoma cases an association with autoimmune disease was present in 311 myasthenia gravis (27.9%), 1 red cell aplasia (0.1%) and 1 Bechet’s disease (0.1%). Among the 210 thymic carcinoma patients myasthenia gravis was present in 6 cases (2.9%). Currently, five studies based on the KART database were published in well renowned journals (1-5) and further research is being conducted. Through the collaboration of ITMIG, 1,327 cases from KART were registered in the central database of Cancer Research And Biostatistics (CRAB) in 2019.
To prepare for the 2019 ITMIG conference, individual e-mails were sent to 75 facilities and the numbers of TET operations from 2016 to 2018 were investigated. Data from 28 hospitals including most high-volume centers were collected. The total number of operations performed by the 28 hospitals in 3 years were 1,272 cases of thymoma and 307 cases of thymic carcinoma. The number of cases registered in the KART was 745 cases of thymoma and 197 cases of thymic carcinoma during same period. KART consisted about 60% of the total cases performed. Based on this data, we can estimate that about 1,670 cases of thymoma and 450 cases of thymic carcinoma were performed in 75 hospitals.
Korean Association for Thoracic Surgical Oncology (KATSO) is the only organization in which all thoracic surgeons in South Korea are registered. Because KART was established with the purpose to collect data on a national scale, the organization is collaborating on producing a nationwide database system with KATSO. KATSO is planning to produce a database system which may collaborate with the ITMIG CRAB database. We will adopt a TNM staging system developed in parallel to Masaoka-Koga system. Data is planned on being collected retrospectively and prospectively and KART data will be the foundation of the retrospective data. The downfall is that financial investments will be needed to produce and sustain this database. Once the KATSO database is fully established, the national data of TET in South Korea will produce results needed to establish a guideline and standard of the treatment for TET. Also KATSO will provide data for domestic research and collaborate with ITMIG to aid in the forming of a worldwide database.
I sincerely appreciate the good collaborations and efforts of KART members.
Provenance and Peer Review: This article was commissioned by the Guest Editors (Mirella Marino, Brett W. Carter) for the series “Dedicated to the 10th International Thymic Malignancy Interest Group Annual Meeting (ITMIG 2019)” published in Mediastinum. The article has undergone external peer review.
Conflicts of Interest: The author has completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form (available at http://dx.doi.org/10.21037/med-2019-itmig-02). The series “Dedicated to the 10th International Thymic Malignancy Interest Group Annual Meeting (ITMIG 2019)” was commissioned by the editorial office without any funding or sponsorship. The author has no other conflicts of interest to declare.
Ethical Statement: The author is accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Open Access Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0), which permits the non-commercial replication and distribution of the article with the strict proviso that no changes or edits are made and the original work is properly cited (including links to both the formal publication through the relevant DOI and the license). See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
- Narm KS, Lee CY, Do YW, et al. Limited thymectomy as a potential alternative treatment option for early-stage thymoma: A multi-institutional propensity-matched study. Lung Cancer 2016;101:22-7. [Crossref] [PubMed]
- Hwang Y, Kang CH, Park S, et al. Impact of Lymph Node Dissection on Thymic Malignancies: Multi-Institutional Propensity Score Matched Analysis. J Thorac Oncol 2018;13:1949-57. [Crossref] [PubMed]
- Park S, Park IK, Kim YT, et al. Comparison of neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery to upfront surgery for thymic malignancy. Ann Thorac Surg 2019;107:355-62. [Crossref] [PubMed]
- Yun JK, Lee GD, Kim HR, et al. A nomogram for predicting recurrence after complete resection for thymic epithelial tumors based on the TNM classification: A multi-institutional retrospective analysis. J Surg Oncol 2019;119:1161-9. [Crossref] [PubMed]
- Na KJ, Hyun K, Kang CH, et al. Predictors of post-thymectomy long-term neurological remission in thymomatous myasthenia gravis: an analysis from a multi-institutional database. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2020;57:867-73. [Crossref] [PubMed]
Cite this article as: Kim DK. Establishment of multi-center database on thymic epithelial tumors (TETs) and current situation in Korea. Mediastinum 2021;5:5.