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Mod Pathol. 2014 Jul;27(7):1028-34. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2013.206. Epub 2013 Dec 6.

BRAF V600E-specific immunohistochemistry reveals low mutation rates in biliary tract cancer and restriction to intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

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Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Institute of Pathology, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Neuroradiology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of General Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Neuropathology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
1] Department of Neuropathology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany [2] Clinical Cooperation Unit Neuropathology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.


BRAF mutations have emerged as an important predictive biomarker for metastasized melanoma. Other types of cancer may also benefit from BRAF mutation-targeted therapies. In biliary tract cancer, reported BRAF mutation rates are highly controversial, ranging from 0 to 33% in adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder and 0 to 22% in cholangiocarcinoma. We here analyzed tissue microarrays of a large cohort of biliary tract cancer (n=377) including 159 intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, 149 extrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, and 69 adenocarcinomas of the gallbladder for BRAF V600E mutation using a highly sensitive immunohistochemical screening approach implementing the BRAF V600E protein-specific antibody VE1. All VE1-positive cases as well as 42 VE1-negative cases were additionally analyzed by Sanger sequencing. In total, only 5 VE1-positive cases were detected (5/377; 1%). BRAF V600E mutation was confirmed by direct sequencing in all cases. All 5 mutated cases were intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas (5/159; 3%). None of the extrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas and adenocarcinomas of the gallbladder were VE1 positive. Apart from the subtype restriction of BRAF V600E mutation to intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and a female predominance (4 female, 1 male), no significant correlation with clinicopathological data and patient outcome was detected. In conclusion, we demonstrate that BRAF V600E mutation is a rare event in biliary tract cancer, accounting for only 1% of all subtypes, and is restricted to intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. In addition, we demonstrate that VE1 immunohistochemistry is a feasible approach to routinely screen for BRAF V600E mutation in biliary tract cancer patients, thereby facilitating the detection of rare patients who may benefit from BRAF mutation-targeted therapies.

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