• thymic carcinoma;
  • squamous cell carcinoma;
  • lung;
  • thymus;
  • thymoma;
  • immunohistochemistry

Immunohistochemical markers in the differentiation of thymic and pulmonary neoplasms

Aims: The histopathological features of some thymic neoplasms overlap with those of pulmonary squamous and large-cell undifferentiated carcinomas, and identification of the primary site may be difficult on routine staining. We have assessed a panel of antibodies that may help to distinguish between neoplasms from these two sites.

Methods and results: Antibodies identifying cytokeratin 7 (CK7), CD5, CD10, CD1a and thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) were applied to a series of 20 thymic neoplasms (thymic carcinomas, atypical thymomas and thymomas), 10 primary squamous cell carcinomas of the lung and 10 large-cell undifferentiated carcinomas of the lung. Staining for TTF-1 was positive in 3/10 large-cell undifferentiated carcinomas, but negative in all other tumours. CD5 showed strong membranous staining in 3/6 thymic carcinomas and 1/14 thymomas, but only focal staining in 1/20 pulmonary carcinomas. CD1a was consistently positive in thymic lymphocytes in both typical and atypical thymomas, but only focally in 1/6 thymic carcinomas. CD1a stained dendritic cells in 7/20 pulmonary carcinomas, but did not stain lymphocytes. Staining for CK7 and CD10 did not aid in differentiating between a pulmonary or thymic origin of the tumour.

Conclusion: Staining for TTF-1, CD5 and CD1a have potential use in distinguishing between pulmonary and thymic neoplasms.