Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Immunohistochemistry in the distinction between malignant mesothelioma and pulmonary adenocarcinoma: a critical evaluation of new antibodies
  1. A S Abutaily1,
  2. B J Addis2,
  3. W R Roche1
  1. 1Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK
  2. 2Department of Cellular Pathology, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor W R Roche, Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, Mailpoint 813, Level E, South Block, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK;


Aim: The value of immunohistochemical staining in differentiating between malignant mesothelioma and pulmonary adenocarcinoma was re-examined using newly available commercial antibodies, with the aim of increasing the sensitivity and specificity of diagnosis, and simplifying the antibody panel required.

Methods: Forty one malignant mesotheliomas and 35 lung adenocarcinomas were studied. Commercial antibodies to calretinin, E-cadherin, N-cadherin, surfactant apoprotein A (SP-A), thyroid transcription factor 1 (TTF-1), thrombomodulin, and cytokeratin 5/6 were applied using the streptavidin–biotin–peroxidase complex procedure on formalin fixed, paraffin wax embedded tissue.

Results: E-cadherin was expressed in all adenocarcinomas and in 22% of the mesotheliomas. TTF-1 expression was detected in 69% of the adenocarcinomas and none of the mesotheliomas. Positive staining with polyclonal anticalretinin was detected in 80% of the mesotheliomas and 6% of the adenocarcinomas. N-cadherin was expressed in 78% of mesotheliomas and 26% of adenocarcinomas. Thrombomodulin was expressed in 6% of the adenocarcinomas and in 53% of the mesotheliomas. Cytokeratin 5/6 expression was detected in 6% of the adenocarcinomas and 63% of the mesotheliomas. The results were compared with the standard laboratory panel for mesothelioma diagnosis: anticarcinoembryonic antigen (anti-CEA), LeuM1, BerEP4, and HBME-1.

Conclusion: Of the antibodies used in this study, E-cadherin was 100% sensitive for pulmonary adenocarcinoma and TTF-1 was 100% specific for pulmonary adenocarcinoma. The application of these two antibodies alone was adequate for the diagnosis of 69% of adenocarcinomas and 78% of mesotheliomas. Where TTF-1 is negative and E-cadherin is positive, a secondary panel of antibodies, including BerEP4 and LeuM1 (CD15) and antibodies directed against CEA, calretinin, cytokeratin 5/6, thrombomodulin, and N-cadherin, is required for differentiation between malignant mesothelioma and pulmonary adenocarcinoma.

  • mesothelioma
  • adenocarcinoma
  • immunohistochemistry
  • diagnosis
  • CEA, carcinoembryonic antigen
  • SP-A, surfactant apoprotein A
  • TBS, Tris buffered saline
  • TTF-1, thyroid transcription factor 1

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.