AIMS: To investigate the immunocytochemical expression of the tissue specific transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) on cytological specimens of small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and to establish its value in the cytological diagnosis of lung cancer. METHODS: For each case, the diagnosis was made on cytological specimens and confirmed on subsequent bronchial biopsy specimens. TTF-1 was detected immunocytochemically using the avidinbiotin complex technique with a rabbit antiserum. Expression of TTF-1 was evaluated in 41 cases of SCLC and 17 cases of non-small cell carcinoma (NSCC). The latter were subdivided into eight cases of adenocarcinomas and nine cases of squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). RESULTS: Positive nuclear immunoreactivity to TTF-1 was identified in 38 (92.7%) of the 41 cases of SCLC, in five (62.5%) of eight cases of adenocarcinoma, and one (11%) of nine cases of SCC. A significant difference was observed between the two main groups, SCLC and NSCC. A comparison between SCLC and adenocarcinoma and SCC showed that TTF-1 expression was significantly different. TTF-1 immunoreactivity was not detected in the inflammatory cells of the same cases. CONCLUSIONS: TTF-1 is strictly associated with SCLC; it was weakly expressed in the various subtypes of NSCC. Although TTF-1 is not specific for SCLC, it can be used to highlight neoplastic cells to good effect when a large inflammatory component is present, and to differentiate SCLC from lymphoid infiltrates.
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