Quantitation of intraepidermal T-cell subsets in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue helps in the diagnosis of mycosis fungoides

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Differentiation between mycosis fungoides (MF) and cutaneous inflammatory processes can usually be made on clinical and histologic grounds. In difficult cases, immunohistochemical studies can be helpful since MF infiltrates usually contain a predominance of CD4+ lymphocytes, while most inflammatory lesions usually have a mixture of CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes. However, this determination has traditionally required the use of frozen tissue, thus severely limiting its usefulness. Recently, antibodies that differentially label CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue have become available (OPD4 and C8/144B respectively, DAKO (Carpinteria, CA, USA). This study tests the utility of these antibodies in the pathologic diagnosis of MF and inflammatory lesions with significant exocytosis. In 9 cases of MF for which both frozen and fixed tissues were available for comparison, the OPD4+ cell count in fixed tissue was significantly lower than the Leu-3a+ cell count in frozen tissue. Also, the C8/144B+ cell count in fixed tissue was higher than the Leu-2a+ cell count in frozen tissue, although this difference was not significant statistically. In a larger series for which only fixed tissue was available, epidermal CD4:CD8 ratios were significantly greater in 23 MF cases (mean 4.0±4.76) than in 35 inflammatory cases (mean 0.6±0.42; p=0.001). Thus, although the studied antibodies appear to detect different epitopes in frozen versus paraffin-embedded tissue, demonstration of an elevated CD4:CD8 ratio in fixed tissue supports the diagnosis of MF, and is a helpful adjunct to routine histopathology.

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