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Am J Clin Pathol. 2003 May;119(5):696-702.

p63 and TTF-1 immunostaining. A useful marker panel for distinguishing small cell carcinoma of lung from poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma of lung.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


We studied the usefulness of p63 and thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) immunostains for differentiating poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma (PDSCC) from small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC). We used monoclonal antibodies reactive to p63 or TTF-1 to stain 4-microns-thick sections from 30 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded lung biopsy and resection specimens and 7 alcohol-fixed, formalin-postfixed, paraffin-embedded cell blocks from lung fine-needle aspirations (FNAs). For p63, we used a streptavidin-biotin kit, diaminobenzidine as the chromogen, and a hematoxylin counterstain. We used automated immunostaining for TTF-1. The 37 cases included 23 SCLCs, 13 PDSCCs, and 1 carcinoma initially diagnosed as PDSCC. All 23 SCLCs were negative or, rarely, equivocal for p63; 20 (87%) of 23 were TTF-1+; nuclear staining ranged from strong and/or frequent to weak and/or uncommon. All 13 PDSCCs were TTF-1-/p63+ with intense staining of 50% to 100% of tumor cells. One case originally diagnosed as PDSCC was TTF-1+/p63-, suggestive of SCLC; after morphologic reexamination and immunostaining for neuroendocrine markers, it was reclassified as intermediate-type SCLC. TTF-1 immunostaining showed equal or increased sensitivity in alcohol-fixed cytologic cell block samples compared with formalin-fixed biopsy material; in 1 SCLC case, the biopsy specimen was TTF-1-; however, the FNA cell block stained positively. p63 and TTF-1 appear to be useful for differentiating SCLC from lung PDSCC in formalin-fixed and alcohol-fixed, formalin-postfixed material.

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