Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contact Us Login 
An Official Publication of the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists

  Table of Contents    
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 150

Dentinogenic ghost cell tumor: Tumor in the garb of a cyst!

1 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Bharati Vidyapeeth University Dental College and Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Bharati Vidyapeeth University Dental College and Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission23-Aug-2016
Date of Acceptance12-Feb-2018
Date of Web Publication13-Apr-2018

Correspondence Address:
Samir Joshi
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Bharati Vidyapeeth University Dental College and Hospital, Pune – 411 043, Maharashtra
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_144_16

Rights and Permissions



The dentinogenic ghost cell tumor (DGCT) is a relatively uncommon locally invasive neoplasm that mimics several inflammatory/reactive lesions of the gingiva or odontogenic cysts. The confirmatory diagnosis of this rare lesion can only be made with histopathological examination. Routine staining reveals features of a “mixed” tumor as ghost cells with calcification, dysplastic dentin and islands of epithelium in rosette pattern in mature connective tissue are visible. The case report describes an asymptomatic growth in the maxillary gingiva of a young patient that was incidentally diagnosed as a DGCT after biopsy. Malignant transformation of this lesion to its more aggressive counterpart, odontogenic ghost cell carcinoma has been described, and hence, regular follow-up of diagnosed cases is imperative. The purpose of the paper is to report a case that adds to the literature and this will consequently help to diagnose and understand the biological behavior of these lesions better.

Keywords: Dentinogenic ghost cell tumor, ghost cell, mixed tumor, odontogenic tumor

How to cite this article:
Korranne V, Merchant Y, Joshi S, Halli R. Dentinogenic ghost cell tumor: Tumor in the garb of a cyst!. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2018;22:150

How to cite this URL:
Korranne V, Merchant Y, Joshi S, Halli R. Dentinogenic ghost cell tumor: Tumor in the garb of a cyst!. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Jul 13];22:150. Available from: http://www.jomfp.in/text.asp?2018/22/1/150/230025

   Introduction Top

The calcifying odontogenic cyst (COC) was first described by Gorlin et al. in 1962.[1] Formerly, the solid variant of COC was called calcifying ghost cell odontogenic tumor. Primarily, it has the features of a cyst, but since it also has several prominent characteristics of a solid neoplasm, it was renamed dentinogenic ghost cell tumor (DGCT) by Praetorius et al.[2] Subsequently, the nomenclature of this tumor was changed to DGCT at the 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) histologic classification of odontogenic tumors.[3]

DGCTs were considered to be the solid, neoplastic tumor counterpart of COCs, an extremely rare odontogenic tumor. COCs account for 1%–2% of all odontogenic tumors and 2%–14% of all COCs are solid tumors.[4]

DGCT may occur intraosseously or less commonly as an extraosseously variant. Most extraosseous DGCTs are peripheral lesions arising in the gingival or alveolar mucosa. Their behavior is typically unaggressive and can be controlled by local excision. No recurrences have been reported. Intraosseous DGCTs are more aggressive than extraosseous DGCTs. More aggressive local resection is recommended for intraosseous DGCT, particularly if the tumor is radiologically ill-defined.[5]

The case report describes a relatively painless, slow-growing asymptomatic lesion in the maxillary anterior gingiva that mimicked a reactive gingival lesion or a globulomaxillary cyst but turned out to be the extremely rare entity of a peripheral DGCT on histopathological examination of the excisional biopsy.

   Case Report Top

A 26-year-old male reported to the clinic of the oral and maxillofacial consultant with the chief complaint of a growth in the upper left front part of the jaw. The patient did not have any pain, but the swelling was causing discomfort to the patient. The patient revealed that the swelling was slow growing and had attained the current size gradually over the past 12–14 months [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Preoperative intraoral view of the lesion

Click here to view

On extraoral examination, the base of the left ala was slightly raised. There was, however, no change in color/texture or erythema over the overlying skin or upper lip.

Intraorally, an ovoid mass was visible on the attached gingival between the maxillary left lateral incisor and canine. It had a reddish-pink color similar to the normal surrounding gingiva.

On palpation, it was firm and had a “ping-pong ball” feel. Written consent was obtained from the patient and the lesion was excised under local anesthesia [Figure 2] and sent for histopathological examination. It was a well-encapsulated lesion [Figure 3].
Figure 2: Intraoperative view of the encapsulated lesion

Click here to view
Figure 3: Specimen

Click here to view

Histologically, under routine H and E staining, a connective tissue capsule with dentinoid tissue was distinctly visible. The cyst lumen showed characteristic ghost cells with calcification which are the hallmark of the dentinogenic ghost cell lesion [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]. Some fields depicted sheets and rounded islands of odontogenic epithelium in mature connective tissue resembling rosettes. Polygonal and polyhedral cells showing hyperchromatic nuclei were also visible. Mitotic figures were not found in these tumor cells, and there was no evidence of malignant transformation in these patients, but the tumor invaded the surrounding cortical bone and soft tissue.
Figure 4: Cystic lumen with ghost cells and calcification (H&E, ×100)

Click here to view
Figure 5: Connective tissue capsule with dentinoid tissue (H&E, ×100)

Click here to view
Figure 6: Ghost cells with calcification (H&E, ×100)

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

DGCT is an uncommon locally invasive neoplasm, representing approximately 1.9%–2.1% of the overall odontogenic tumors.[6] Peripheral DGCT is a rare odontogenic tumor, representing 13%–21% of all DGCTs. Clinically, it appears as a nodule of the gingival or alveolar mucosa and is usually asymptomatic. Peripheral occurrence of the cystic types of COCs is well documented in the English literature.[7] This may result from cortical bone perforation by a central lesion or more rarely, true peripheral origin from gingival epithelial remnants.[8]

Candido et al., in their review of the literature, concluded that peripheral DGCTs mostly affect the canine region or the anterior part of the jaw. The patient age ranged from 41 to 83 years with an average age of 62.[9] Contrary to other odontogenic tumors, DGCT predominantly occurs in later life.[10] No predominance exists for the maxilla or mandible.[3]

Histologically, DGCT is an infiltrative solid neoplasm composed of odontogenic epithelium associated with ghost cell formation and production of dentinoid. Dentinoid is hyalinized eosinophilic material suggestive of immature or dysplastic dentin and is located closely near the epithelial sheet.[4] Sheets and rounded islands of odontogenic epithelium are seen in mature connective tissue. The epithelium of the tumor islands resembles that of an ameloblastoma. Minor cysts may form in the epithelial islands. A characteristic feature is the transformation of the epithelial cells into ghost cells. Individual as well as large islands of ghost cells may be seen. Some ghost cells undergo calcification and lose their cellular outline.[11]

Ghost cells are swollen ellipsoidal keratinized epithelial cells that have lost their nuclei, leaving only a faint outline of the original nuclei.[12] Ghost cells are essentially requisite for the diagnoses of DGCT and COC.[13] Large islands or individual eosinophilic ghost cells are found in the epithelium as well as in the connective tissue.

The aggressive or malignant counterpart of DGCT, odontogenic ghost cell carcinoma (OGCC), combines architectural and cytologic malignant features with prominent mitotic activity, infiltrative growth pattern, locally aggressive, destructive behavior and occasional distant metastasis.[14] The malignant transformation of DGCT into OGCC has been described,[15] so patients with DGCT, especially recurrent DGCT, should remain in long-term follow-up.

Other differential diagnoses include inflammatory and reactive gingival lesions such as epulis, globulomaxillary cysts and the peripheral variant of the ameloblastoma.

DGCT can be distinguished from ameloblastoma by the presence of large numbers of ghost cells and dysplastic dentin.[16]

Some results suggest that conservative curettage and enucleation were not appropriate for treating DGCT, and the biological behavior of DGCT requires further study.[17] The etiology remains an enigma till date and a thorough understanding of the pathophysiology ever since it has been described by Gorlin has been controversial.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Gorlin RJ, Pindborg JJ, Odont, Clausen FP, Vickers RA. The calcifying odontogenic cyst: A possible analogue of the cutaneous calcifying epithelioma of Malherbe. An analysis of fifteen cases. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1962;15:1235-43.  Back to cited text no. 1
Praetorius F, Hjørting-Hansen E, Gorlin RJ, Vickers RA. Calcifying odontogenic cyst. Range, variations and neoplastic potential. Acta Odontol Scand 1981;39:227-40.  Back to cited text no. 2
In: Barnes L, Eveson JW, Reichart P, Sidransky D, editors. WHO Classification of Tumors: Pathology and Genetics of Tumors of the Head and Neck. Lyon, France: Oxford University Press; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 3
Buchner A. The central (intraosseous) calcifying odontogenic cyst: An analysis of 215 cases. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 1991;49:330-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
Sun G, Huang X, Hu Q, Yang X, Tang E. The diagnosis and treatment of dentinogenic ghost cell tumor. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2009;38:1179-83.  Back to cited text no. 5
Wong YK, Chiu SC, Pang SW, Cheng JC. Peripheral dentinogenic ghost cell tumor presenting as a gingival mass. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2004;42:173-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Altini M, Farman AG. The calcifying odontogenic cyst. Eight new cases and a review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1975;40:751-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
Bhashar CS. The gingival cyst and the keratinizing ameloblastoma. Oral Surg Oral Med Otal Pathol 1965;19:796-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Candido GA, Viana KA, Watanabe S, Vencio EF. Peripheral dentinogenic ghost cell tumor: A case report and review of the literature. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 2009;108:e86-90.  Back to cited text no. 9
Raubenheimer EJ, van Heerden WF, Sitzman F, Heymer B. Peripheral dentinogenic ghost cell tumor. J Oral Pathol Med 1992;21:93-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Fejerskov O, Krogh J. The calcifying ghost cell odontogenic tumor-or the calcifying odontogenic cyst. J Oral Pathol 1972;1:273-87.  Back to cited text no. 11
Goldenberg D, Sciubba J, Tufano RP. Odontogenic ghost cell carcinoma. Head Neck 2004;26:378-81.  Back to cited text no. 12
Sedano HO, Pindborg JJ. Ghost cell epithelium in odontomas. J Oral Pathol 1975;4:27-30.  Back to cited text no. 13
Stone CH, Gaba AR, Benninger MS, Zarbo RJ. Odontogenic ghost cell tumor: A case report with cytologic findings. Diagn Cytopathol 1998;18:199-203.  Back to cited text no. 14
Li TJ, Yu SF. Clinicopathologic spectrum of the so-called calcifying odontogenic cysts: A study of 21 intraosseous cases with reconsideration of the terminology and classification. Am J Surg Pathol 2003;27:372-84.  Back to cited text no. 15
Prætorius F, Ledesma-Montes C. Dentinogenic ghost cell tumour. In: Barnes L, Eveson JW, Reichart P, Sidransky D, editors. WHO Classification of Tumours: Pathology and Genetics of Head and Neck Tumors. Lyon: IARC; 2005. p. 314.  Back to cited text no. 16
Ledesma Montes C, Gorlin RJ, Shear M, Torius FP, Mosqueda-Taylor A, Altini M. et al. International collaborative study on ghost cell odontogenic tumours: Calcifying cystic odontogenic tumour, dentinogenic ghost cell tumour and ghost cell odontogenic carcinoma. J Oral Pathol Med 2008;37:302-8.  Back to cited text no. 17


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]


Print this article  Email this article


    Similar in PUBMED
    Search Pubmed for
    Search in Google Scholar for
  Related articles
    Article in PDF (2,856 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded128    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal

Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
Online since 15th Aug, 2007