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Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 Feb;23(2):147-52.

Rare expression of high-molecular-weight cytokeratin in adenocarcinoma of the prostate gland: a study of 100 cases of metastatic and locally advanced prostate cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Immunohistochemistry with antibodies for high-molecular-weight cytokeratin labels basal cells and is used as an ancillary study in diagnosing prostate carcinoma, which reportedly lacks expression of high-molecular-weight cytokeratin. A recent report questioned the specificity of this marker, describing immunopositivity for high-molecular-weight cytokeratin in a small series of metastatic prostate cancer. We have also noted rare cases of prostate lesions on biopsy with typical histological features of adenocarcinoma showing immunopositivity for high-molecular-weight cytokeratin, either in tumor cells or in patchy cells with the morphology of basal cells. In some of these cases, it was difficult to distinguish cancer from out-pouching of high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia. To investigate whether prostate cancer cells express high-molecular-weight cytokeratin, we studied 100 cases of metastatic prostate carcinoma and 10 cases of prostate cancer invading the seminal vesicles from surgical specimens. Metastatic sites included regional lymph nodes (n = 67), bone (n = 19), and miscellaneous (n = 14). Cases with any positivity for high-molecular-weight cytokeratin antibody (34betaE12) were verified as being of prostatic origin with immunohistochemistry for prostate-specific antigen and prostate-specific acid phosphatase. Only four cases were detected positive for high-molecular-weight cytokeratin. In two cases (one metastasis, one seminal vesicle invasion) there was weakly diffuse positivity above background level. Two metastases in lymph nodes showed scattered strong staining of clusters of tumor cells, which represented <0.2% of tumor cells in the metastatic deposits. These positive cells did not have the morphology of basal cells. We conclude that prostate cancer, even high grade, only rarely expresses high-molecular-weight cytokeratin. This marker remains a very useful adjunct in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

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