Value of Immunohistochemistry in Gynecological Pathology
Moderator: Dr. W. Glenn McCluggage
Case 8 -
Endometrial Carcinoma Grade 1
with Squamous Metaplasia Involving the Lower Uterine Segment.
Dr. Jaume Ordi, Hospital Clinic,
59-year-old woman presented with uterine bleeding. An endometrial curettage showed an endometrial
carcinoma. A total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was performed. The section
includes the lower uterine segment and the endocervical canal.
Case 8 - Figure 1
The uterus showed a 2 cm endometrial tumor located in the lower uterine segment. Histological
analysis revealed a well-differentiated endometrial adenocarcinoma with small foci of squamous
differentiation. No myometrial invasion was identified. The tumor involved the endocervical canal. The
uterine cervix showed a squamous intraepithelial carcinoma grade 3 (CIN3) and foci of in situ endocervical carcinoma. This second neoplasm contacted focally with the
Immunohistochemical studies showed that the neoplastic endometrial glands
exhibited an intense positivity for Vimentin, estrogen and progesterone receptors and cytokeratin 7. CEA
was negative in this component and p16 showed only isolated positive cells. In contrast, the cervical
intraepithelial neoplasm showed, both in the squamous and in the glandular component intense and diffuse
positivity for p16 and CEA. In contrast, vimentin, estrogen and progesterone receptors were negative.
Finally, HPV 16 was identified by PCR using the SPF10 set of primers in the endocervical
adenocarcinoma but not in the endometrial tumor.
- Endometrial carcinoma grade 1
with squamous metaplasia involving the lower uterine segment.
- CIN3 and in situ adenocarcinoma of the uterine cervix.
The distinction between an endometrial and an endocervical origin of an adenocarcinoma may be
difficult, especially with small biopsy specimens or when tumor is present in both endometrial and
cervical specimens. Frequently these tumors show overlapping histologic features. Thus, a significant
number of endocevical tumors show endometrioid features, and endometrial neoplasms frequently show
mucinous differentiation. This distinction is of importance because adjuvant treatments may
differ depending on whether the tumour is of endometrial or endocervical origin and the choice
of primary surgery may also differ. Clues to a primary endometrial lesion include the
presence of adjacent atypical endometrial hyperplasia or the presence of benign squamous
elements or stromal foam cells. A primary endocervical tumour is favoured when there is
Several immunohistochemical stains can be helpful in making this differentiation. The most commonly
used panel of immunohistochemical stains includes vimentin, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and estrogen
and progesterone receptors. Most endometrial adenocarcinomas are positive for vimentin, whereas only a
minority of tumors of endocervical origin are positive for this marker. CEA positivity is more common in
endocervical adenocarcinomas (60-75%) than in endometrial adenocarcinomas (less than 30%). However, some
endometrial adenocarcinomas may be focally positive for CEA and there is often strong positive
staining of benign squamous elements.
Finally ER is usually negative or there may be focal weak positivity in endocervical tumors.
In contrast, endometrial adenoarcinomas usually show abundant positive cells.
The p16 protein, encoded by the CDKN2A (MTS1, INK4A) tumor suppressor gene located on
chromosome 9p21 decelerates the cell cycle by inactivating the function of cdk4- and cdk6-cyclin D
complexes. These complexes regulate the G1 checkpoint by phosphorylation and subsequent inactivation of
retinoblastoma (pRb), which releases E2F that allows the cell to enter in the S phase. In all
HPV-related neoplasms, pRb has been shown to be functionally inactivated as a consequence of HPV E7
protein expression, and as a result, a strong overexpression of p16 develops. Cervical cancer and their
precursor, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and endocervical adenocarcinoma in
situ, but not normal or reactive cervical epithelia, express high levels of the p16. Thus, p16
immunohistochemistry can be of help for distinguishing between an endometrial and an endocervical origin
of an adenocarcinoma. Endocervical adenocarcinomas show an intense and diffuse positivity for p16 in
almost 100% of cases. Most primary endocervical adenocarcinomas are characterized by strong, diffuse
positivity of 100% of cells with p16. Endometrial adenocarcinomas are usually positive, but positivity
is generally focal and commonly involves <50% of cells. Thus, diffuse, strong positivity with p16
suggests an endocervical rather than an endometrial origin of an adenocarcinoma. When there is
morphological doubt this antibody may be of value as part of a panel for ascertaining the origin of an
Human papillomavirus (HPV) are recognized to play an etiologic role in cervical carcinogenesis and are
detectable in almost all preinvasive and invasive cervical epithelial neoplasms. The high risk human
papillomavirus (HR-HPV) types are etiologically related to the progression to cervical cancer because of
the expression of their E6 and E7 oncoproteins to deregulate cell cycle proteins. Thus, techniques to
identify HPV can also be used in the making this distinction because HPV sequences are constantly
identified in cervical tumors and premalignant lesions using sensitive PCR techniques. Using in situ hybridization, HPV has been detected in 2/3 of cases.
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