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Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2001 Dec;9(4):297-301.

Cytokeratin immunostaining patterns of benign, reactive lymph nodes: applications for the evaluation of sentinel lymph node specimen.

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Department of Pathology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA.


The use and interpretation of cytokeratin (CK) immunostains of sentinel lymph node specimens for breast carcinoma remain controversial. Variable immunoreactivity with anti-CK antibodies and CK-positive interstitial reticulum cells may complicate interpretation. The authors examined a series of reactive lymph nodes selected from patients without a history of malignancy. To demonstrate potential diagnostic pitfalls, three different CK antibody combinations were studied to characterize the immunostaining patterns. Formalin-fixed sections of lymph nodes were immunostained with a labeled streptavidin-biotin method using a DAKO autostainer. The anti-CK antibody preparations evaluated were AE1/AE3, CAM 5.2, and an in-house-prepared CK cocktail composed of 7 antibodies. The authors observed that up to 10% of cells in benign, reactive lymph nodes may be immunoreactive with anti-CK antibodies. AE1/AE3 stained 2 of 20 cases with rare immunoreactive reticulum cells, whereas CAM 5.2 and the CK cocktail immunostained cells in 85% of cases with reticulum cells in sinuses and the paracortex. Rare positive to 2+ cells were present in a similar distribution with these two antibodies. Careful interpretation of CK immunostaining of sentinel lymph node biopsies is essential, as is awareness of the presence of CK-positive native reticulum cells, to avoid confusion with single cells of metastatic carcinoma.

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