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Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 Nov;28(11):1499-505.

The use of cytokeratin 7 and EMA in differentiating ovarian yolk sac tumors from endometrioid and clear cell carcinomas.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Yolk sac tumors (YSTs) have a variety of morphologic patterns, some of which can resemble either endometrioid adenocarcinoma (EAC) or clear cell carcinoma (CCC). Immunohistochemical staining for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is usually only focal and thus is not always helpful in the diagnosis of YST, and pancytokeratin (CK) is expressed by all three tumors. We studied a battery of immunohistochemical markers with specific attention to the utility of cytokeratin 7 (CK7) in differentiating YST from EAC and CCC. A total of 46 ovarian tumors were retrieved for this study: 16 YST, 19 EAC, and 11 CCC. The three groups were analyzed for the expression of CK7, AFP, Leu-M1 (CD15), EMA, and WT1 by immunohistochemistry. In addition, CK and c-kit (CD117) were studied in the YSTs. All of the YSTs tested (100%) were positive for CK. CK7 was considered negative in all 16 YST cases (100%), although a few tumor cells (1%-2%) stained in 4 cases. In contrast, 17 of 19 EACs and all 11 CCCs had diffuse 3+ to 4+ positivity for CK7; the two other EACs showed 2+ positivity for CK7 (40% and 30% of the tumors). AFP was positive in 12 of 15 YSTs (80%), but was generally focal with 1+ staining in 10 cases (67%); only 2 cases were 3+. All of the EACs and CCCs were negative for AFP. Leu-M1 was 1+ in 9 of 15 YSTs (60%), while the remaining 6 were considered negative. Leu-M1 was positive in 10 of 15 EACs tested (67%), but the staining was variable with 1 case 3+, 3 cases 2+, and 6 cases 1+. In the CCCs, 10 cases (91%) were 3+ to 4+, and 1 case was 1+. EMA was essentially negative in 15 of 15 YSTs (100%), with 3 completely negative and 12 showing very focal (<5%) staining. Eight of 12 EACs showed 4+ staining, 3 showed 3+ staining, and 1 showed 2+ staining. All of the 11 CCCs (100%) showed 4+ staining. WT1 was negative in all cases of YST and CCC; 16 of 18 EAC tested (89%) were negative for WT1, but 2 (11%) were 4+ positive. C-kit was negative in all YSTs. In conclusion, it is important for pathologists to be aware that YSTs may mimic EACs and CCCs and that this distinction is important for the clinical management of patients with these tumors. AFP staining is focal in most YST, so an absence of staining does not exclude this diagnosis. CK7 and EMA are essentially negative in YST but are diffusely positive in CCC and EAC, making them useful markers for differentiating YSTs from both CCCs and EACs. Leu-M1 may also be helpful for distinguishing YSTs from CCCs.

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