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Cholangiolar pattern and albumin in situ hybridisation enable a diagnosis of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma


Aims The histological distinction of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) from metastatic adenocarcinoma remains a challenge. The primary goal was to evaluate the diagnostic value of morphology and albumin expression in the diagnosis of ICC.

Methods We evaluated morphological patterns in 120 ICCs and 677 non-hepatic adenocarcinomas and performed in situ hybridisation (ISH) stain for albumin in the former cohort (retrospective cohort). We also identified 119 samples from primary and metastatic lesions, the validation cohort, in which albumin ISH was performed as part of the diagnostic workup. Targeted sequencing was performed on selected cases. We also mined existing expression profiling data including cases from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) (41 760 unique samples).

Results In the retrospective cohort, 45% of ICCs and <1% of non-hepatic adenocarcinomas showed a cholangiolar pattern; albumin ISH was positive in 93% of ICCs with significant intratumorous heterogeneity. In the validation cohort, 29% of ICCs showed a cholangiolar pattern and 88% expressed albumin, while all metastatic non-hepatic neoplasms were negative (n=37) (sensitivity 88% and specificity 100%). Targetable genetic alterations (IDH mutations and FGFR2 fusions) were identified in 31% of ICCs (10 of 32). An analysis of the TCGA data validated the specificity of the albumin assay.

Conclusions The cholangiolar pattern and albumin RNA ISH distinguishes ICC from metastatic adenocarcinoma with high specificity. Given the high prevalence of targetable mutations in ICC, albumin RNA ISH is an essential component in the workup of tumours of uncertain origin. A specific diagnosis of ICC could trigger molecular testing and uncover targetable genetic alterations.

  • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
  • cholangiolar
  • cholangiocellular
  • albumin
  • in situ hybridization

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