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Am J Surg Pathol. 2003 Oct;27(10):1302-12.

Hepatoid adenocarcinoma with liver metastasis mimicking hepatocellular carcinoma: an immunohistochemical and molecular study of eight cases.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, Schönbeinstrasse 40, University Hospital Basel, 4003 Basel, Switzerland.


Hepatoid adenocarcinoma (HAC) is a special type of extrahepatic adenocarcinoma, which has a striking morphologic similarity to hepatocellular carcinoma. Seven HACs arising in the stomach and one in the lung, all with liver metastasis, were studied. They shared clinical features, such as old age, high serum alpha-fetoprotein level, aggressive behavior, and hepatic tumor in absence of risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Morphologically, tumors were characterized by an admixture of tubulo-and/or papillary adenocarcinoma with hepatoid foci. In six cases, liver metastases showed an exclusive hepatoid differentiation, virtually indistinguishable from HCC with solid growth pattern. As HAC and HCC cannot be differentiated on the basis of morphology alone, differences in immunohistochemical reaction patterns would be of considerable diagnostic help. Immunostaining for CK7, CK8, CK18, CK19, CK20, alpha-fetoprotein, p-CEA, and HepPar1 revealed that hepatoid areas of both primary and metastatic HAC have a specific immunoprofile, distinctive of this entity. On the one hand, positivity of virtually all HACs for alpha-fetoprotein, CK8, CK18, and the membranous, canalicular staining for polyclonal carcinoembryonic antigen underline its hepatoid nature. On the other hand, positive staining for CK19 and CK20 and frequent negativity for HepPar1 in both primary tumors and their metastases were distinctive features of HAC. Furthermore, HAC differs from combined hepatocellular cholangiocarcinoma, being negative for CK7. In addition, for comparison of immunohistochemical results, we stained with the same antibody panel a tissue microarray of 121 HCCs. Comparative genomic hybridization study of three HAC supports their hepatoid differentiation as aberrations found in HAC are common in HCC (4q-, 8p-), and hepatoblastoma (Xq+), respectively.

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