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Challenges and controversies in the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma: Part 2. Malignant mesothelioma subtypes, pleural synovial sarcoma, molecular and prognostic aspects of mesothelioma, BAP1, aquaporin-1 and microRNA
  1. Douglas W Henderson1,2,
  2. Glen Reid3,
  3. Steven C Kao3,
  4. Nico van Zandwijk3,
  5. Sonja Klebe1,2
  1. 1Department of Surgical Pathology, SA Pathology, Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, South Australia
  2. 2Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia
  3. 3Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Douglas W Henderson, Department of Surgical Pathology, SA Pathology at Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park 5042, South Australia; dhenderson{at} or Doug.Henderson{at}


Pleural malignant mesothelioma (MM) includes several unusual and even rare but distinctive histological subtypes, in addition to the usual subdivision into epithelioid, biphasic and sarcomatoid MM. Criteria for discrimination between fibrous pleuritis versus desmoplastic mesothelioma include evidence of neoplastic invasion for diagnosis of desmoplastic MM, but this histological assessment is complicated by the recently-described ‘fake fat phenomenon’ in cases of fibrous pleuritis. The distinction between biphasic and monophasic synovial sarcoma of the pleura versus biphasic and sarcomatoid MM can be problematical and is most cogently based upon molecular detection of the t(X;18) translocation, whereas a clear diagnosis of MM for a pleural tumour histologically resembling synovial sarcoma is favoured by a negative result for this translocation and, probably, microRNA evidence supportive of a diagnosis of MM. Aquaporin-1 (AQP1) is a molecule involved in the growth of MM cells, and yet is a factor reported to correlate with improved survival rates for MM with an epithelioid component, in comparison to AQP1-poor MM, as assessed from AQP1 expression by epithelioid MM cells only (apart from co-expression by stromal endothelial cells in addition to the tumour cells). Recent reports have also focused upon germline mutations in the BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1), not only in cases of familial mesothelioma, but also BAP1 deletion in sporadic MM. Prognostic factors for MM include not only the histological subtypes, but other independent variables that include (among others), AQP1 expression by mesothelioma cells, the clinical status of the patient, the serum neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio and blood thrombocytosis.

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