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Am J Surg Pathol. 1998 Oct;22(10):1267-76.

Neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAM) and NCAM-PSA expression in neuroendocrine lung tumors.

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Laboratoire de Pathologie Cellulaire, Grenoble, France.


Neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAM) represent specific markers of neuroendocrine (NE) differentiation in lung cancer. Because the polysialic acid form (NCAM-PSA) has reduced adhesion properties, we hypothesized that NCAM-PSA expression could favor metastatic spread. Immunostaining of NCAM and NCAM-PSA were therefore compared in 120 NE lung tumors, including 17 typical carcinoids, 3 atypical carcinoids, 30 large cell NE carcinomas and 70 small cell lung carcinomas, as compared with 25 adenocarcinomas and 25 squamous cell carcinomas. Neural cell adhesion molecules were negative in adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas but were constantly expressed in all NE tumors from typical carcinoids to small cell lung carcinomas. NCAM-PSA expression was significantly more frequent in high-grade tumors, with 24 of 30 positive cases in large cell NE carcinomas and 65 of 70 positive cases in small cell lung carcinoma, than in carcinoids with 10 of 17 and 2 of 3 positive cases in typical carcinoids and atypical carcinoids, respectively. The neural cell adhesion molecule-polysialic acid form scores of staining were significantly higher in high-grade as compared with low-grade tumors (p = 0.002), and were correlated with nodal spread (p = 0.04) and metastasis (p = 0.016) across histologic classes but not in individual tumor type. We conclude that NCAM-PSA connotes poor differentiation and aggressive clinical behavior in the spectrum of NE lung tumors, but cannot be regarded as a prognostic factor in individual tumor classes.

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