Thymoma-associated multiorgan autoimmunity

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Thymoma-associated multiorgan autoimmunity (TAMA)
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Thymoma-associated multiorgan autoimmunity (TAMA) is a severe often fatal disease that presents in some patients with thymoma. [1] It has also been referred to in the medical literature as "thymoma-associated graft-versus-host-like disease".



Patients with TAMA present with variable combinations of a morbilliform skin eruption, chronic diarrhea, and abnormal liver enzymes. The histopathology of the skin, liver, or bowel mucosa resembles GVHD. [2]


Thymoma is a common neoplasm arising from the thymus, the primary lymphoid organ where T cells become educated to distinguish "self" from "non self". In the setting of thymoma, abnormal thymic education occurs as a result of subtle differences in antigen processing. In TAMA these differences result in autoreactive T cells escaping from the thymus. This results in a condition similar to graft-versus-host disease. [1]



Patients often have a refractory disease course but some patients may respond to phototherapy. [3]


This disease name was coined by Emanual Maverakis and described in detail in 2007 but case reports of graft-versus-host-like disease in the setting of thymoma date back to at least the mid 1990s. [1] [4]

Related Research Articles

Thymus Endocrine gland

The thymus is a specialized primary lymphoid organ of the immune system. Within the thymus, thymus cell lymphocytes or T cells mature. T cells are critical to the adaptive immune system, where the body adapts specifically to foreign invaders. The thymus is located in the upper front part of the chest, in the anterior superior mediastinum, behind the sternum, and in front of the heart. It is made up of two lobes, each consisting of a central medulla and an outer cortex, surrounded by a capsule.

Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an "autoimmune disease". Prominent examples include celiac disease, post-infectious IBS, diabetes mellitus type 1, Henloch Scholein Pupura (HSP) sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren syndrome, eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, Addison's disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis, polymyositis (PM), dermatomyositis (DM) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Autoimmune diseases are very often treated with steroids.

Psoriasis Skin disease

Psoriasis is a long-lasting, noncontagious autoimmune disease characterized by raised areas of abnormal skin. These areas are typically red, or purple on some people with darker skin, dry, itchy, and scaly. Psoriasis varies in severity from small, localized patches to complete body coverage. Injury to the skin can trigger psoriatic skin changes at that spot, which is known as the Koebner phenomenon.

T cell Type of lymphocyte

A T cell is a type of lymphocyte. The T cell is originated from hematopoietic stem cells, which are found in the bone marrow; however, the T cell matures in the thymus gland and plays a central role in the immune response. T cells can be distinguished from other lymphocytes by the presence of a T-cell receptor on the cell surface. These immune cells originate as precursor cells, derived from bone marrow, and develop into several distinct types of T cells once they have migrated to the thymus gland. T cell differentiation continues even after they have left the thymus.

Graft-versus-host disease

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a syndrome, characterized by inflammation in different organs, with the specificity of epithelial cell apoptosis and crypt drop out. GvHD is commonly associated with bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants. GvHD also applies to other forms of transplanted tissues such as solid organ transplants.


A thymoma is a tumor originating from the epithelial cells of the thymus that may be benign or malignant. Thymomas are frequently associated with the neuromuscular disorder myasthenia gravis; thymoma is found in 20% of patients with myasthenia gravis. Once diagnosed, thymomas may be removed surgically. In the rare case of a malignant tumor, chemotherapy may be used.

A thymectomy is an operation to remove the thymus. It usually results in remission of myasthenia gravis with the help of medication including steroids. However, this remission may not be permanent. Thymectomy is indicated when thymoma are present in the thymus. Anecdotal evidence suggests MG patients with no evidence of thymoma may still benefit from thymectomy, thus the procedure is commonly prescribed.

Omenn syndrome

Omenn syndrome is an autosomal recessive severe combined immunodeficiency. It is associated with hypomorphic missense mutations in immunologically relevant genes of T-cells such as recombination activating genes, Interleukin-7 receptor-α (IL7Rα), DCLRE1C-Artemis, RMRP-CHH, DNA-Ligase IV, common gamma chain, WHN-FOXN1, ZAP-70 and complete DiGeorge syndrome. It is fatal without treatment.

Central tolerance, also known as negative selection, is the process of eliminating any developing T or B lymphocytes that are reactive to self. Through elimination of autoreactive lymphocytes, tolerance ensures that the immune system does not attack self peptides. Lymphocyte maturation occurs in primary lymphoid organs such as the bone marrow and the thymus. In mammals, B cells mature in the bone marrow and T cells mature in the thymus.

Immune tolerance, or immunological tolerance, or immunotolerance, is a state of unresponsiveness of the immune system to substances or tissue that have the capacity to elicit an immune response in a given organism. It is induced by prior exposure to that specific antigen and contrasts with conventional immune-mediated elimination of foreign antigens. Tolerance is classified into central tolerance or peripheral tolerance depending on where the state is originally induced—in the thymus and bone marrow (central) or in other tissues and lymph nodes (peripheral). The mechanisms by which these forms of tolerance are established are distinct, but the resulting effect is similar.

Transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease (TA-GvHD) is a rare complication of blood transfusion, in which the immunologically competent donor T lymphocytes mount an immune response against the recipient's lymphoid tissue. These donor lymphocytes engraft, recognize recipient cells as foreign and mount an immune response against recipient tissues. Donor lymphocytes are usually identified as foreign and destroyed by the recipient's immune system. However, in situations where the recipient is severely immunocompromised, or when the donor and recipient HLA type is similar, the recipient's immune system is not able to destroy the donor lymphocytes. This can result in transfusion associated graft-versus-host disease.

Alefacept is a genetically engineered immunosuppressive drug. It was sold under the brand name Amevive in Canada, the United States, Israel, Switzerland and Australia. In 2011, the manufacturers made a decision to cease promotion, manufacturing, distribution and sales of Amevive during a supply disruption. According to Astellas Pharma US, Inc., the decision to cease Amevive sales was neither the result of any specific safety concern nor the result of any FDA-mandated or voluntary product recall. On the other hand, usage of Amevive was associated with a certain risk of development systemic diseases such as malignancies. This drug was never approved for the European drug market.

Intraepithelial lymphocyte

Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) are lymphocytes found in the epithelial layer of mammalian mucosal linings, such as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and reproductive tract. However, unlike other T cells, IELs do not need priming. Upon encountering antigens, they immediately release cytokines and cause killing of infected target cells. In the GI tract, they are components of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).

Chemotherapy-induced acral erythema

Chemotherapy-induced acral erythema is reddening, swelling, numbness and desquamation on palms of the hands and soles of the feet that can occur after chemotherapy in patients with cancer. Hand-foot syndrome is also rarely seen in sickle-cell disease. These skin changes usually are well demarcated. Acral erythema typically disappears within a few weeks after discontinuation of the offending drug.

Thymus hyperplasia refers to an enlargement ("hyperplasia") of the thymus.

Transplantable organs and tissues may both refer to organs and tissues that are relatively often or routinely transplanted, as well as relatively seldom transplanted organs and tissues and ones on the experimental stage.

Paraneoplastic pemphigus (PNP) is an autoimmune disorder stemming from an underlying tumor. It is hypothesized that antigens associated with the tumor trigger an immune response resulting in blistering of the skin and mucous membranes.

Thymoma with immunodeficiency is a rare disorder that occurs in adults in whom hypogammaglobulinemia, deficient cell-mediated immunity, and thymoma may develop almost simultaneously.Most reported cases are in Europe, though it occurs globally.

One of the major characteristics of vertebrate immunology is thymic involution, the shrinking (involution) of the thymus with age, resulting in changes in the architecture of the thymus and a decrease in tissue mass. This process is genetically regulated, with the nucleic material responsible being an example of a conserved sequence — one maintained through natural selection since it arose in a common ancestor of all species now exhibiting it, via a phenomenon known to bioinformaticists as an orthologic sequence homology. The thymus involutes in almost all vertebrates, from birds, teleosts, amphibians to reptiles, though the thymi of a few species of sharks are known not to involute. T-cells are named for the thymus where T-lymphocytes migrate from the bone marrow to mature. Its regression has been linked to the reduction in immunosurveillance and the rise of infectious disease and cancer incidence in the elderly . Though thymic involution has been linked to immunosenescence, it is not induced by senescence as the organ starts involuting from a young age: in humans, as early as the first year after birth.

Thymus transplantation is a form of organ transplantation where the thymus is moved from one body to another.


  1. 1 2 3 Wadhera A, Maverakis E, Mitsiades N, Lara PN, Fung MA, Lynch PJ (Oct 2007). "Thymoma-associated multiorgan autoimmunity: a graft-versus-host-like disease". J Am Acad Dermatol. 57 (4): 683–9. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2007.02.027. PMID   17433850.
  2. Meneshian A, Giaccone G, Olivier KR. "Clinical presentation and management of thymoma and thymic carcinoma". UpToDate.
  3. Nakayama M, Itoh M, Kikuchi S, Tanito K, Nakagawa H (Apr 2016). "Thymoma-associated cutaneous graft-versus-host-like disease possibly treated with Narrow-band UVB phototherapy". Eur J Dermatol. 26 (2): 208–9. doi:10.1684/ejd.2015.2716. PMID   27018042. S2CID   26959211.
  4. Kornacki S, Hansen FC, Lazenby A (1995). "Graft-versus-host-like colitis associated with malignant thymoma". Am J Surg Pathol. 19 (2): 224–8. doi:10.1097/00000478-199502000-00011. PMID   7832281.