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Am J Surg Pathol. 2006 Dec;30(12):1519-30.

Precursors of endometrial clear cell carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

Abstract

The recognition of morphologically identifiable lesions which may confer an increased risk for subsequent development of an invasive malignancy offers an opportunity to investigate and better understand the molecular-genetic etiopathogenesis of the well-developed tumor, and potentially, to administer a therapeutic intervention before its development. In contrast to uterine endometrioid and serous carcinomas, very little is known about the potential precursor lesions of endometrial clear cell carcinoma (ECCC). In our routine practice, we have noted the presence of a spectrum of atypical glandular changes in the endometria adjacent to ECCC or endometrial carcinomas with a clear cell component, which on the basis of current criteria, would not qualify for any specific designation. We hypothesize that these lesions represent the earliest morphologically recognizable precursor lesions of ECCC and systematically characterize their clinicopathologic features herein. Thirty archived cases of pure ECCC (n=14) or mixed endometrial carcinomas with a >10% clear cell component (n=16) were retrieved and the "normal" endometria adjacent to the malignancies were evaluated in detail. Thirty-eight benign uteri and 30 uteri with classic endometrial endometrioid carcinoma (EEC) served as controls. All cases were reviewed in a blinded fashion. Putative precursor lesions (PPL) were searched for and identified microscopically. The lesions were typically isolated glands or surface epithelium (within an otherwise normal endometrial region) that displayed cytoplasmic clarity and/or eosinophilia with varying degrees of nuclear atypia. Twenty-seven (90%) of the 30 cases had at least 1 PPL. In contrast, PPL were identified neither in the benign uteri nor in endometrioid carcinoma control groups (P<0.001). A total of 67 foci of PPL were identified in the 27 cases with an average of 2.5 foci per case. The immunohistochemical expression of p53, mib-1, estrogen receptor (ERs), and progesterone receptor in the benign endometria, ECCC, and the PPL were evaluated on all 27 cases. The mean p53 scores for the benign endometria, PPL, and ECCC were 0, 4.5, and 6.2, respectively. Parallel values for mib-1 were 15%, 45%, and 63%. ER/progesterone receptor indices for benign endometria, PPL, and carcinoma were 90/80, 21.52/4.61, and 11/4, respectively. The PPL described herein have a morphologic and immunophenotypic profile which seems to be distinct from both the benign endometria in which they reside and the adjacent areas of ECCC. The high frequency of association of these lesions with ECCC, their frequent occurrence as isolated lesions within otherwise "benign-appearing" endometria, and their continuous spectrum of nuclear atypia from minimum (grade 1, cytologic atypia falls short of ECCC cells) to maximum (grade 3, cytologically identical to ECCC cells), argues in favor of our hypothesis that these may represent precursor lesions of ECCC. Further studies are required to conclusively define the nature of these lesions. However, such studies can only be performed if diagnostic surgical pathologists recognize, highlight, and segregate these lesions for further analysis.

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