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Am J Clin Pathol. 2012 May;137(5):747-52. doi: 10.1309/AJCP5W5SEZSEHUHE.

Metaplastic and medullary mammary carcinomas do not express mammaglobin.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital, FL 33136, USA.


Mammaglobin A (MG-A) is purportedly useful for detecting metastatic carcinomas suspected to be of breast origin and has been advocated as a useful marker of micrometastasis in sentinel lymph nodes and minimal residual tumor in bone marrow. Little is known about its expression frequency in histologic subtypes of breast cancer. Excisional biopsy specimens from 1,079 untreated invasive mammary carcinomas were evaluated for immunohistochemical expression of MG-A. In addition to estrogen (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) and HER2, staining for p63 and HLA-DR was used to further characterize histologic subtypes. Of the carcinomas, 36 were classified as metaplastic (based on morphologic features, ER-/PR-/HER2-, p63+), 38 as medullary (ER-/PR-/HER2-, HLA-DR+), and 1,005 as ductal, no special type (NST). All metaplastic and medullary carcinomas were negative for MG-A. Of 1,005 ductal carcinomas, NST, 492 (49.0%) were MG-A+, 62.0% with a reaction in fewer than 25% of the cells. MG-A immunohistochemical studies failed to detect all medullary and metaplastic cancers and more than 50% of ductal carcinomas, NST. In two thirds of MG-A+ ductal carcinomas, the reaction was only focal and usually in a minority of cells. These findings suggest that MG-A has limited value in identifying the mammary origin of carcinomas, particularly in small biopsy specimens used to detect metastasis or minimal residual disease.

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