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Cancer Res. 1988 Jun 1;48(11):3221-9.

Cytokeratins in different types of human lung cancer as monitored by chain-specific monoclonal antibodies.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University Hospital Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The expression of cytokeratins (CKs) in human lung cancer was studied using chain-specific monoclonal antibodies to CKs 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 18, and 19. When applied to adenocarcinomas (ACs) of the lung, high levels of CKs 7, 8, 18, and 19 were detected in all tumors, while CK 4 was found in high concentrations in some ACs. CK 10 and 13 were completely absent, or only present in low numbers of cells. Small cell lung cancers (SCLCs) and lung carcinoids contained CK 18 and sometimes 8 and 19, but no CK 7 in most cases. Three out of four tumors, histologically classified as SCLC, and expressing CK 7 in a variable number of cells were found by electron microscopic studies to contain regions with AC and/or squamous cell carcinoma (SQC) differentiation. The monoclonal antibody specific for CK 7 can therefore possibly help to distinguish AC differentiation within SCLC. CKs 10 and 13 were completely absent in SCLCs and lung carcinoids, while few CK 4-positive cells were found in some SCLCs and in one lung carcinoid. Within SQCs the monoclonal antibodies revealed a pronounced heterogeneity in CK expression. CKs 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 18, and 19 could be detected, although not evenly distributed among all tumor cells. Highly differentiated SQCs expressed high levels of the CKs specific for squamoid differentiation, i.e., CKs 4, 10, and 13 in variable numbers of cells. With decreasing histologically detectable SQC differentiation these markers were gradually lost, while the number of cells containing CKs 7, 8, 18, and 19 increased. Application of this panel of monoclonal antibodies can therefore distinguish not only the main subtypes of lung cancer, but can also indicate the degree of differentiation and the degree of heterogeneity. These findings can be used as a diagnostic aid in lung tumor pathology, which may have an impact on treatment and prognosis.

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