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Am J Surg Pathol. 2000 Sep;24(9):1217-23.

Value of thyroid transcription factor-1 immunostaining in distinguishing small cell lung carcinomas from other small cell carcinomas.

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University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center, Houston, 77030, USA.


The distinction between small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) and small cell carcinomas of other sites is difficult by routine histology. Thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) is a homeodomain-containing transcription factor that is selectively expressed in thyroid and pulmonary epithelial cells. TTF-1 expression has also been demonstrated in adenocarcinomas of the thyroid and lung, and SCLC. However, the value of TTF-1 immunostaining in discriminating between SCLC and nonpulmonary small cell carcinomas has not been investigated. In the present study using an immunoperoxidase staining procedure on paraffin sections, we investigated the expression of TTF-1 and cytokeratin 20 (CK20), a marker that has previously been demonstrated in small cell carcinomas of the skin (Merkel cell carcinomas), in 82 small cell carcinomas from a wide variety of sites (28 lung, 18 skin, 12 gastrointestinal tract, 8 sinonasal, 5 bladder, 3 prostate, 3 uterine cervix, 2 thyroid, 2 salivary gland, and 1 pancreas). Twenty-seven (96%) of the 28 SCLCs were positive for TTF-1. Among the nonpulmonary small cell carcinomas, two tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, one of the bladder, and one of the uterine cervix exhibited TTF-1 positivity. Sixteen (89%) of the 18 Merkel cell carcinomas and one SCLC were CK20-positive. All other small cell carcinomas were negative for this marker. These results indicate that although TTF-1 is not a specific marker for SCLC, it may assist in distinguishing SCLC from some nonpulmonary small cell carcinomas, particularly Merkel cell carcinoma, especially when it is used in conjunction with CK20.

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