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Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2008 Mar;16(2):140-7. doi: 10.1097/PAI.0b013e318032cf72.

Variable antigen expression in hepatoblastomas.

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  • 1Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London WC1N 3JH, UK.


Hepatoblastoma is a malignant tumor that typically presents as a mass in the liver of a child less than 5 years of age. The diagnosis is usually established by means of a needle core biopsy before the treatment is commenced. The pathologic diagnosis of hepatoblastoma relies on the microscopic identification of typical morphologic features, but these may not be present in a needle core biopsy, and in this setting immunohistochemical staining has an important role in the exclusion of other childhood malignancies. We have studied 12 needle core biopsies from cases of hepatoblastoma, all of which had the diagnosis confirmed by subsequent resection of the tumor, to determine if these tumors show a diagnostic phenotype. The needle biopsies were immunostained with a standard panel of antibodies normally used in the characterization of childhood small round blue cell tumors, with the addition of antibodies directed against alpha-fetoprotein and alpha-1-antitrypsin. Our results indicate that the majority of hepatoblastomas expressed cytokeratins (10/12) and that alpha-1-antitrypsin and alpha-fetoprotein staining were positive in approximately half the cases (5/12 and 7/12, respectively). We also observed frequent expression of antigens normally expressed on other childhood tumors. A significant number of hepatoblastomas (8/12) expressed MIC-2 (CD99) an antigen normally associated with primitive neuroectodermal tumor, 4 cases showed positive staining with the neural-associated antigen NCAM (CD56), and 3 were positive with the neuroblastoma marker NB84. Occasional cases showed expression of the muscle marker desmin (2/12) and 2 cases stained with BCL2. Vimentin expression was seen in 1 case, and a single case also expressed the neural markers PGP9.5 and neurone-specific enolase. In all cases, the tumor cells were negative with CD45, WT1, and S-100. These findings indicate that the primitive cells in hepatoblastoma have a variable immunophenotype and can express antigens normally seen in other childhood malignancies. In the clinical setting of the differential diagnosis of childhood abdominal mass, hepatoblastoma shows no distinct immunohistochemical profile, and the diagnosis requires a combination of the clinical, imaging, and pathologic findings.

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