Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Diagnosis of adenocarcinoma in prostate needle biopsy tissue
  1. P A Humphrey
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P A Humphrey
    Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, PO Box 8118, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St Louis, MO 63110, USA; humphrey{at}


Prostate cancer is a major public health problem throughout the developed world. For patients with clinically localised prostate cancer, the diagnosis is typically established by histopathological examination of prostate needle biopsy samples. Major and minor criteria are used to establish the diagnosis, based on the microscopic appearance of slides stained using haematoxylin and eosin. Major criteria include an infiltrative glandular growth pattern, an absence of basal cells and nuclear atypia in the form of nucleomegaly and nucleolomegaly. In difficult cases, basal cell absence may be confirmed by immunohistochemical stains for high-molecular-weight cytokeratins (marked with antibody 34βE12) or p63, which are basal cell markers. Minor criteria include intraluminal wispy blue mucin, pink amorphous secretions, mitotic figures, intraluminal crystalloids, adjacent high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, amphophilic cytoplasm and nuclear hyperchromasia. Another useful diagnostic marker detectable by immunohistochemistry is α-methylacyl coenzyme A racemase (AMACR), an enzyme selectively expressed in neoplastic glandular epithelium. Cocktails of antibodies directed against basal cell markers and AMACR are particularly useful in evaluating small foci of atypical glands, and in substantiating a diagnosis of a minimal adenocarcinoma. Reporting of adenocarcinoma in needle biopsy specimens should always include the Gleason grade and measures of tumour extent in the needle core tissue. Measures of tumour extent are (1) number of cores positive for cancer in the number of cores examined, (2) percentage of needle core tissue affected by carcinoma and (3) linear millimetres of carcinoma present.

  • AMACR, α-methylacyl coenzyme A racemase
  • H&E, haematoxylin and eosin
  • PIN, prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia
  • PSA, prostate-specific antigen
  • PSAP, prostatic acid phosphatase

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.


  • Competing interests: None declared.