Distinguishing Neurofibroma From Desmoplastic Melanoma: The Value of p53

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Distinguishing desmoplastic melanomas (DMs) from neurofibromas (NFs) can be histologically challenging in some cases. To date, a reliable marker to differentiate the 2 entities has remained elusive. S100 subtyping and CD34 fingerprinting have been proposed, but controversy remains as to their reliability. Missense mutations in TP53 are often found in DMs, resulting in a dominant negative effect and paradoxical accumulation of the tumor suppressor protein p53. We hypothesized that p53 may be expressed differentially in DMs, making it a valuable tool in differentiating DMs from NFs. Using immunohistochemistry, we compared p53 protein expression in 20 DMs and 20 NFs retrieved from our tissue archives and stained with p53 antibody (Monoclonal, DO-7). Patients with DM included 18 men and 2 women (age, 36 to 95 y; mean, 70.5 y; median, 70 y). Fifteen (15/20) tumors occurred in head and neck area; 2 (2/20) on the trunk; and 3 (3/20) on the extremities. Patients with NF included 12 men and 8 women (age, 47 to 85 y; mean, 65.2 y; median, 69.5 y). Eleven (11/20) tumors occurred on the trunk, 6 (6/20) on the extremities, and 3 (3/20) on the head and neck area. A total of 19/20 (95%) DMs were positive for p53. DM Histo-scores ranged from 0 to 300 (mean, 203; median, 260). Nuclear accumulation of p53 was seen in all 19 positive DMs. None of the 20 NFs were positive for p53 (2-tailed t test P-value <0.0001). Detection of p53 by immunohistochemistry can help to distinguish DMs from NFs.

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