Hepatocyte nuclear factor-1β is not a specific marker of clear cell carcinoma in serous effusions


  • Ben Davidson MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Pathology, Oslo University Hospital, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway
    2. University of Oslo, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Oslo, Norway
    • Corresponding author: Ben Davidson, MD, PhD, Division of Pathology, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Montebello N-0310 Oslo, Norway; Fax: 011 (47) 22508554; bend@medisin.uio.no

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  • The competent work of Ms. Helene Tuft Stavnes and Mr. Arild Holth in performing the immunohistochemistry analysis is gratefully acknowledged.



The transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor-1β (HNF1β) has been reported to be a specific clear cell carcinoma marker, but its role in the diagnosis of serous effusions is largely unexplored. The objective of this study was to assess the diagnostic role of 2 commercial antibodies against HNF1β in effusion specimens.


Effusions (n = 101), consisting of 43 ovarian adenocarcinomas (26 serous, 14 clear cell, 3 endometrioid), 37 nonovarian adenocarcinomas, 10 malignant mesotheliomas, 2 nonepithelial cancers, and 9 reactive specimens, were immunostained using antibodies from Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc (Santa Cruz, Calif) and Atlas Antibodies AB (Stockholm, Sweden).


Use of the Santa Cruz antibody was associated with cytoplasmic or background staining in some specimens, whereas distinct staining with minimal background was observed using the Atlas antibody. The Santa Cruz antibody performed better in differentiating clear cell carcinoma from serous ovarian carcinoma and breast carcinoma, whereas staining was consistently negative in benign and malignant mesotheliomas using both antibodies. Distinct nuclear expression of HNF1β was observed in lung and gastrointestinal carcinomas, most often using the Atlas antibody.


The HNF1β antibody from Atlas performed better than its counterpart from Santa Cruz in terms of staining quality, but was less specific for clear cell carcinoma. Although HNF1β may be of diagnostic value in differentiating clear cell from serous carcinoma in cases with proven genital origin, the role of this marker is questionable in the differential diagnosis between the former tumors and adenocarcinomas of other origin, particularly in the setting of metastasis from an unknown primary tumor. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol) 2014;122:153–8. © 2013 American Cancer Society.