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Low meprin α expression differentiates primary ovarian mucinous carcinoma from gastrointestinal cancers that commonly metastasise to the ovaries
  1. Viola A Heinzelmann-Schwarz1,
  2. Richard A Scolyer2,
  3. James P Scurry3,
  4. Alison N Smith1,
  5. Margaret Gardiner-Garden1,
  6. Andrew V Biankin1,
  7. Sally Baron-Hay4,
  8. Carolyn Scott4,
  9. Robyn L Ward5,
  10. Daniel Fink6,
  11. Neville F Hacker7,
  12. Robert L Sutherland1,
  13. Philippa M O’Brien1
  1. 1Cancer Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Department of Anatomical Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3South Eastern Area Laboratory Service, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5Department of Medical Oncology, St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6Division of Gynecology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  7. 7Gynaecological Cancer Centre, Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P M O’Brien
 Cancer Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, 384 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010, Australia; p.obrien{at}


Background: Currently, no specific immunohistochemical markers are available to differentiate primary mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer (MOC) from adenocarcinomas originating at other sites that have metastasised to the ovary, which may have an impact on patient management and prognosis.

Aim: To investigate the expression of two intestinal markers, galectin 4 and meprin α, in mucinous carcinomas of the ovary and gastrointestinal tract.

Methods: Using immunohistochemical analysis, the expression of galectin 4 and meprin α was investigated in 10 MOCs and in 38 mucinous adenocarcinomas of colon, pancreas, stomach and appendix, the most common sites of origin of ovarian metastases.

Results: Total cytoplasmic galectin 4 expression was relatively consistent between the different carcinomas. Membranous meprin α expression was significantly lower in MOCs compared with gastrointestinal carcinomas. Moreover, meprin α expression showed greater discrimination between the ovarian and gastrointestinal carcinomas than the cytokeratins CK7 and CK20, the current standard immunohistochemical markers used to determine the tissue origin of mucinous carcinomas involving the ovaries.

Conclusions: Meprin α is a useful additional marker in differentiating primary from secondary mucinous adenocarcinomas of the ovary.

  • MOC, mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer

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  • Published Online First 5 July 2006

  • Funding: The Ovarian Cancer Project is a collaboration between the Royal Hospital for Women’s Gynaecological Cancer Centre and the Cancer Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia, and is supported by the Gynaecological Oncology (GO) Fund, Royal Hospital for Women’s Foundation, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia. VAH-S was supported by the Swiss National Foundation (FNSNF Number 81AM-068430), Division of Gynecology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. PMO’B and AVB are Fellows of the Cancer Institute New South Wales. RLS is supported by the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia, and The Cancer Council New South Wales.

  • Competing interests: None.