Podoplanin and SOX2 Expression in CIN 3–like Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Cervix

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Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the uterine cervix occasionally demonstrates a deceptive growth pattern that mimics endocervical crypt involvement by cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, grade 3 (CIN 3). Such CIN 3–like SCCs may be misinterpreted as noninvasive or minimally invasive leading to delays in diagnosis. Little is known of the factors that influence the growth patterns of cervical SCC but we suggested recently that CIN 3–like tumors might demonstrate “collective cellular invasion,” which is characterized by a retained epithelial phenotype. This contrasts with the more overtly infiltrative growth of conventional SCC, which exhibits features suggestive of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. In the current study we investigated podoplanin (PP) and SOX2 expression in normal squamous epithelium, in CIN 3 and in 16 CIN 3–like SCCs 11 of which also showed a conventional invasive component. Compared with normal epithelium, CIN 3 often showed a focal loss of basal PP staining and most cases showed increased, typically diffuse, SOX2 expression. Although the immunohistochemical findings were not uniform, they generally supported collective cellular invasion in CIN 3–like tumor areas as these were often PP positive and showed diffuse SOX2 expression. In contrast, most conventional SCCs showed only focal SOX2 staining and they were typically negative, or only focally positive, for PP. The staining patterns did not reliably distinguish CIN 3 from CIN 3–like SCC. Small infiltrative tumor nests around the margins of CIN 3 or deeply invasive CIN 3–like SCC often showed a localized reduction in SOX2 expression suggesting SOX2 downregulation during the transition to invasive growth.

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