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Virchows Arch. 2016 Aug;469(2):213-22. doi: 10.1007/s00428-016-1963-4. Epub 2016 May 30.

The unique luminal staining pattern of cytokeratin 5/6 in adenoid cystic carcinoma of the breast may aid in differentiating it from its mimickers.

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Department of Pathology, Nara Medical University, Kashihara, Nara, Japan.
Department of Pathology, Clinical Research Center, Nagoya Medical Center, 4-1-1 Sannomaru, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.
Department of Clinical Trials and Research, Clinical Research Center, Nagoya Medical Center, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.
Department of Clinical Research Management, Clinical Research Center, Nagoya Medical Center, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.
Department of Pathology, Shiga Medical University, Otsu, Shiga, Japan.
Department of Molecular Diagnostic Pathology, Iwate Medical University School of Medicine, Morioka, Japan.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (AdCC) of the breast is an uncommon but distinct neoplasm composed of a dual cell population polarized around true glandular (luminal) spaces and pseudolumina. The aim of this study was to clarify whether various immunohistochemical markers (CK7, EMA, CD117, p63, calponin, CD10, S100, CK5/6, CK14, vimentin, and type IV collagen) can distinguish between the two cell types in classical AdCC (n = 14) and in collagenous spherulosis (n = 5). The sensitivity and specificity of these 11 markers to distinguish luminal from abluminal cells were evaluated using a curve created by plotting the true-positive rate (sensitivity) against the false-positive rate (1 - specificity) at threshold settings of 0, 10, 50, and 70 %. The most sensitive and specific markers for luminal cells in AdCC were CK7 and EMA; those for abluminal cells were type IV collagen, p63, and vimentin. CD10 and S100 did not act as abluminal markers in AdCC. CK5/6, one of the basal/myoepithelial markers, was expressed more frequently in luminal than in abluminal cells of AdCC. Thus, CK5/6 immunostaining resulted in a reverse expression pattern, analogous to what we recently documented in clear cells in mammary adenomyoepithelioma. In conclusion, compared with myoepithelial/abluminal cells of normal breast or collagenous spherulosis, the neoplastic abluminal cells of classical AdCC are characterized by enhanced vimentin and attenuated CD10 and S100. Furthermore, the luminal cells of AdCC show a unique aberrant staining pattern for CK5/6 that may aid in the differential diagnosis.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Collagenous spherulosis; Cytokeratin 5/6; Myoepithelial cells; Vimentin

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