Primary Signet-Ring Cell Carcinoma of Lung: Immunohistochemical Study and Comparison With Non-Pulmonary Signet-Ring Cell Carcinomas

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Signet-ring cell carcinoma (SRCC) of lung is a rare variant of pulmonary adenocarcinoma. In view of this rarity, the question of whether an SRCC is primary pulmonary or metastatic arises frequently because the majority of SRCCs seen in lung are metastatic tumors having arisen in stomach, colon, or breast. On routine histologic examination it is difficult to distinguish between pulmonary SRCC from SRCC metastasizing from other organs. Thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) is a homeodomain-containing transcription factor that is almost exclusively expressed in thyroid and pulmonary epithelial cells. TTF-1 expression has been demonstrated in various neoplasms of lung; however, the expression of TTF-1 in SRCCs has not been investigated so far. In the present study, using an immunoperoxidase staining procedure on paraffin sections, we investigated the expression of TTF-1, cytokeratin 7, cytokeratin 20, and villin (a specific marker expressed in tumors of the digestive tract, renal proximal tubules, and hepatic bile ducts) in 32 SRCCs from various organs (17 lung, 5 breast, 5 stomach, and 5 colon). Fourteen (82.4%) of 17 pulmonary SRCCs exhibited TTF-1 positivity, whereas none of the SRCCs of other organs were positive for TTF-1. A cytokeratin profile (CK7+/CK20−) was identified in 94.1% of pulmonary SRCC, and although it differed from the profile exhibited in colonic SRCCs (CK7−/CK20+), a similar profile was seen in breast SRCCs and some SRCCs arising in the stomach. Villin was identified in 29.4% of pulmonary SRCCs and 20% (one case) arising in the breast. Although the pattern of villin immunostaining exhibited by nondigestive tract SRCCs (cytoplasmic) differed from those of digestive tract SRCCs (membranous), distinguishing between the two groups based on their pattern of immunostaining alone would be difficult. The results of this study indicate that TTF-1 is expressed in a high percentage of pulmonary SRCCs and is very specific and that TTF-1 would be extremely valuable in distinguishing pulmonary SRCCs from those arising in other organs.

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