Background: Spindle cell carcinoma (SpCC) is a rare microscopic type of cancer of the mouth and oropharynx. Although SpCC is thought to arise from squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), it carries a worse prognosis.
Aim: To find out the difference in immunohistochemical expression of cytokeratin, vimentin and smooth-muscle actin, and mutational alterations in the K-ras oncogene between the two tumours, in an attempt to characterise SpCC.
Methods: Immunohistochemical analysis was performed by standard avidin–biotin complex method in 35 cases each of SpCCs and SCCs. DNA extracted from paraffin wax-embedded tumours was used for PCR followed by single-strand conformation polymorphism for mutational analysis of K-ras exon 1 and exon 2.
Results: In the SpCC group, cytokeratin positivity was significantly higher in epithelial areas (52.2%) than in spindle cell areas (16.1%), whereas vimentin was more positive in spindle cell areas (18.7%) than epithelial areas (2.7%). Cells intermediate between epithelial and spindle cell areas were consistently positive for both cytokeratin and vimentin. Cytokeratin was found to be significantly more positive in SCC (72.6%) than the squamous component and spindle cell component of SpCC. In this study, no mutation was detected in the K-ras gene of either the SpCC or SCC group.
Conclusions: The spindle cell component of SpCC is intermixed with cells that are morphologically mesenchymal but express dual antigen-positivity characteristic of epithelial (cytokeratin) and mesenchymal (vimentin) cells. These, possibly, are cells in transition suggesting that SpCC may be a sarcomatous metaplasia of SCC.
- dCTP, deoxycytidine triphosphate
- SCC, squamous cell carcinoma
- SpCC, spindle cell carcinoma
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Published Online First 26 May 2006
Competing interests: None declared.