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Diagn Cytopathol. 2007 Oct;35(10):653-5.

Diagnostic value of telomerase expression in breast fine-needle aspiration biopsies.

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Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida 32209, USA.


Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of breast is a minimally invasive sampling procedure with a proven value in the initial evaluation of patients with palpable breast lesions. FNAB is a simple, cost-effective, and relatively nontraumatic procedure that has replaced open surgical biopsy in majority of academic institutions across the world. There are, however, inherent limitations in the ability of FNAB to reliably diagnose small percentage of cases that are difficult to diagnose by cytomorphology alone and require excisional biopsy. This shortcoming may be minimized if the morphology can be complemented by a reliable diagnostic adjunct. This retrospective study was designed to assess the added value of telomerase immunostain in interpretation of breast FNABs. Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that has been shown to be activated in different malignant tumors, including breast cancer. Immunocytochemical detection of this molecular marker on cytologic smears and cellblocks may be helpful for interpretation of FNAB specimens. In our retrospective study, we found that 56% of the malignant breast cases (28/50) showed positive telomerase immunostaining while only 4% of the negative cases (2/50) stained with telomerase (positive predictive value: 93%, negative predictive value: 69%). Expression of telomerase on highly suspicious breast fine-needle aspirations may upgrade the diagnosis to malignancy. However, a negative telomerase cannot exclude the possibility of carcinoma.

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