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Expression of cathepsins B, D and K in thymic epithelial tumours


Aim Cathepsins are proteases that regulate a wide range of physiological processes, including protein turnover, cell signalling and antigen presentation. Recent studies have shown that cathepsins are highly upregulated in many types of tumours. Of the 15 cathepsins in humans, cathepsins V and S are abundantly expressed in the thymus, and we previously showed that the immunostaining of these cathepsins could serve as diagnostic markers for thymic epithelial tumours. However, little is known about the expression of other cathepsins in thymic epithelial tumours. To determine the diagnostic implications of cathepsins, we performed immunohistochemical analysis of cathepsin B (CTB), cathepsin D (CTD) and cathepsin K (CTK), all of which have been reported to correlate with the progression of squamous cell carcinoma.

Methods The association between cathepsin expression and clinicopathological features was evaluated in 122 cases of thymoma and thymic carcinoma.

Results CTB and CTD were frequently expressed in type A and type AB thymomas. In contrast, CTB and CTD were significantly less common in type B thymomas than in type A or AB thymomas. In type AB thymomas, the expression of CTB correlated with histological features, and was found predominantly in the type A component. Notably, CTK was expressed most commonly in thymic carcinomas, and patients who died of the disease showed increased expression of CTK.

Conclusions The expression of CTB and CTD correlated with the histological subtype of thymoma. In addition, the expression of CTK appears to be useful for the diagnosis of thymic carcinomas and as a prognostic marker.

  • histopathology
  • diagnosis
  • carcinoma
  • immunohistochemistry

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