Immunostaining for p16INK4a Used as a Conjunctive Tool Improves Interobserver Agreement of the Histologic Diagnosis of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia

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Abstract

The quality of cervical histopathology is critical to cervical cancer prevention, cancer treatment, and research programs. On the basis of the histology results further patient management is determined. However, the diagnostic interpretation of histologic hematoxylin-eosin (H&E)-stained slides is affected by substantial rates of discordance among pathologists. Overexpression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p16INK4a, a cell cycle regulating protein, has been shown to be strongly correlated with dysplastic lesions of the cervix uteri. In this study, we assessed whether p16INK4a immunohistochemistry may increase the performance of pathologists in diagnosing squamous lesions in cervical punch and cone biopsies. When using a consecutive p16INK4a-stained slide in conjunction to the H&E-stained slide, interobserver agreement between 6 pathologists improved significantly for both cervical punch and cone biopsies (P<0.001). For punch biopsies (n=247), κ value increased from 0.49 (moderate agreement) to 0.64 indicating substantial agreement, and interobserver agreement for cone biopsies (n=249) improved from 0.63 (conventional H&E slide reading) to 0.70 when H&E-stained slides were read conjunctively with p16INK4a-stained slides. In comparison to a common consensus diagnosis established by 3 independent experts, 4 pathologists reached an improvement with the conjunctive p16INK4a test, 2 of them showing significantly better agreement (P<0.001 and P=0.002, respectively). p16INK4a immunohistochemistry as an adjunct to conventional H&E-stained specimens thus contributes to a more reproducible diagnosis of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and may be a valuable aid for the interpretation of cervical histology.

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