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Papillary and follicular neoplasms of the thyroid gland. Differential immunohistochemical staining with high-molecular-weight keratin and involucrin.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Seton Medical Center, South San Francisco, California, USA.


The morphologic distinction between papillary and follicular neoplasms of the thyroid gland can be difficult, especially on small biopsy specimens or in fine-needle aspirations. To determine whether immunohistochemistry could help in achieving the correct diagnosis, we characterized the staining pattern for a series of papillary and follicular neoplasms of the thyroid gland. A pilot study was performed using a panel of antibodies, including high-molecular-weight keratin (HMWK, 34 beta E12), cytokeratin (CK) 5/6, CK7, CK13, CK14, CK20, AE1/AE3, CAM5.2, involucrin, and villin. Of these antibodies, involucrin and HMWK showed strong differential staining between follicular and papillary neoplasms. HMWK stained 91% of papillary carcinomas, including follicular variants, with a median of 53% positive cells, and involucrin stained 72.5% of papillary neoplasms with a median of 45% positive cells. HMWK stained only 20% of follicular neoplasms, whereas involucrin stained 29% of cases. Papillary neoplasms showed strong, although patchy, staining with HMWK and involucrin, whereas those follicular neoplasms that did have staining showed a weak, diffuse pattern of staining. We believe that HMWK, and involucrin to a lesser degree, could be useful in differentiating papillary from follicular neoplasms, especially for cytologic cell block material or for cases in which the architectural pattern is follicular.

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