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Histopathology. 2000 Feb;36(2):156-60.

Immunohistochemical analysis of pleomorphic lobular carcinoma: higher expression of p53 and chromogranin and lower expression of ER and PgR.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Saskatchewan, Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.



Pleomorphic lobular carcinoma of the breast is a histological variant of infiltrating lobular carcinoma with a poor prognosis. The aim of this study is to investigate the immunohistochemical profile of this distinctive breast carcinoma in comparison with the classical type. The expression of cytokeratin, epithelial membrane antigen, gross cystic disease fluid protein-15, chromogranin, oestrogen and progesterone receptors and p53 oncoprotein was investigated to examine whether the expression of these markers correlates with the aggressiveness of this variant.


Sections from 10 cases of pleomorphic lobular carcinomas were reviewed and examined for the expression of cytokeratin of high and low molecular weight, epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), gross cystic disease fluid protein-15 (GCDFP-15), chromogranin, oestrogen (ER) and progesterone receptors (PgR), and p53 oncoprotein. Immunohistochemical staining was performed on paraffin wax embedded sections. Ten cases of classical lobular carcinomas were used for comparison. A semiquantitative count of the percentage of positive tumour cells was recorded. Pleomorphic lobular carcinomas have most of the characteristic histological features of the classical type but have nuclear anaplasia and abundant granular cytoplasm. Clinically they exhibited poor prognosis and a high frequency of nodal metastases. All of the pleomorphic lobular carcinomas expressed low and high molecular weight keratin, EMA, and GCDFP-15, eight cases expressed nuclear p53 at a range between 10% and 45%. All cases expressed chromogranin (3-5%). ER and PgR were weakly positive in two cases and negative in eight cases. Classical infiltrating lobular carcinomas were all positive for cytokeratin, EMA, ER and PgR and negative for GCDFP-15. Only five cases of classical lobular carcinoma expressed p53 positivity with up to 5% nuclear staining while chromogranin showed less expression (1-2%).


Pleomorphic lobular carcinoma exhibits distinct cellular features with apocrine differentiation, higher expression of chromogranin and p53 protein and lower ER and PgR in comparison with classical lobular carcinomas. Determination of p53 overexpression and reduced or absent expression of ER and PgR may help predict the behaviour of this variant of lobular carcinoma.

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