Sensitivity and specificity of immunohistochemical markers used in the diagnosis of epithelioid mesothelioma: a detailed systematic analysis using published data


Miss Juliet King, Specialist registrar, Department of Cardiac Surgery, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK. e-mail:


Aims : Immunohistochemistry is frequently employed to aid the distinction between mesothelioma and pulmonary adenocarcinoma metastatic to the pleura, but there is uncertainty as to which antibodies are most useful. We analysed published data in order to establish sensitivity and specificity of antibodies used to distinguish between these tumours with a view to defining the most appropriate immunohistochemical panel to use when faced with this diagnostic problem.

Methods and results : A systematic analysis of the results of 88 published papers comparing immunohistochemical staining of a panel of antibodies in mesothelioma with epithelioid areas, and pulmonary adenocarcinoma metastatic to the pleura. Results for a total of 15 antibodies were analysed and expressed in terms of sensitivity and specificity. The most sensitive antibodies for identifying pulmonary adenocarcinoma were MOC-31 and BG8 (both 93%), whilst the most specific were monoclonal CEA (97%) and TTF-1 (100%). The most sensitive antibodies to identify epithelioid mesothelioma were CK5/6 (83%) and HBME-1 (85%). The most specific antibodies were CK5/6 (85%) and WT1 (96%).

Conclusions : No single antibody is able to differentiate reliably between these two tumours. The use of a small panel of antibodies with a high combined sensitivity and specificity is recommended.