Alpha-1-antichymotrypsin immunoreactivity in papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland

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Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is the most common malignant tumour of the thyroid gland. The immunohistochemical profile of PTC is characterized by immunoreactivity of tumour cells for cytokeratins, thyroglobulin, vimentin, EMA and S100 protein. Recently, the presence of a serum protease inhibitor, alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT), has been demonstrated in tumour cells of PTC. The aim of our study was to test immunoreactivity of PTC for another inhibitor of proteases, alpha-1-antichymotrypsin (A1ACT).

Methods and results:

Serial paraffin sections of nine consecutive cases of PTC were tested with anti-A1AT and anti-A1ACT antibodies. No immunoreactivity for A1AT and A1ACT was found in the normal thyroid tissue surrounding each tumour. In seven out of nine cases, tumour cells of PTC showed cytoplasmic immunoreactivity for A1ACT. In two cases, A1ACT was detected even in the nuclei. Immunoreactivity for A1AT was found only in three cases. Two cases of PTC showed no staining for both A1ACT and A1AT. No significant correlation of A1ACT staining was found with various prognostic indices (age of patients, histological pattern, tumour size, presence of regional lymph node metastases). The two cases showing a lack of staining for both A1ACT and A1AT showed a more aggressive clinical behaviour.


Our preliminary study shows that A1ACT is expressed by tumour cells in a large proportion of papillary carcinomas of the thyroid gland. Its significance remains, to the best of our knowledge, still unknown. The observation of a more aggressive behaviour in the two cases characterized by the absence of immunoreactivity for both A1ACT and A1AT suggests that the presence or absence of protease inhibitors could play a role in controlling tumour progression in PTC.

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