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Lab Invest. 1983 Apr;48(4):372-94.

Tumor diagnosis by intermediate filament typing: a novel tool for surgical pathology.


In most cell types intermediate or 10-mm filaments (IF) are a major cytoskeletal organization and, thus, directly or indirectly influence the structural appearance of the cytoplasm. In line with the cell type-specific expression patterns of different IF proteins in normal animal and human tissue, IF typing distinguishes the major tumor groups, as documented by results with several hundred human tumors classified by conventional histologic methods. Carcinomas are characterized by cytokeratins, sarcomas of muscle cells by desmin, nonmuscle sarcomas by vimentin, and gliomas by glial fibrillary acidic protein. Furthermore, certain tumors originating from the sympathetic nervous system, e.g., ganglioneuroblastoma, pheochromocytoma, and at least some neuroblastomas, are characterized by the presence of neurofilaments. Carcinomas can often be further subdivided with regard to their possible derivation by examining their cytokeratin profiles. The IF type characteristic of the cell of origin seems to be kept not only in the primary tumor but usually also in solid metastases. In general, tumors do not acquire additional IF types. Therefore, IF typing can provide an unambiguous and rapid characterization in certain cases, that are difficult to diagnose by conventional techniques. Some useful examples are the small cell tumors of childhood and the discrimination between undifferentiated carcinoma and lymphoma. IF typing of a few tumors has already led to a revision or reconsideration of the original light microscopic diagnosis. The combined results indicate that at least certain carcinomas, as well as certain other tumor types, seem to arise by the selective multiplication of a particular and identifiable cell type present in the normal tissue. The procedure is not restricted to tumor material. IF typing of Mallory bodies, Alzheimer's disease tangles, certain myopathies, and the cells of the amniotic fluid offers further interesting applications. Thus, IF typing should become a valuable new tool both in histology and surgical pathology.

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