Utility of p63 in the differential diagnosis of atypical fibroxanthoma and spindle cell squamous cell carcinoma


Bruce R. Smoller, MD, Department of Pathology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham Street, Slot 517, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA
Tel: (501) 686 5170
Fax: (501) 296 1184
e-mail: smollerbrucer@uams.edu


Atypical fibroxanthoma (AFX), spindle cell squamous cell carcinoma (SCSCC) and spindle cell melanoma are the primary entities in the differential diagnosis of a cytologically atypical spindle cell tumor arising on sun-damaged skin. AFX is generally regarded as a diagnosis of exclusion in this context: in the absence of S100 or keratin reactivity, a diagnosis of AFX is favored. However, keratin reactivity may be focal or even absent in SCSCC, and although numerous positive markers of AFX have been proposed, none has shown sufficient sensitivity and specificity for routine diagnostic use. We evaluated 20 AFX and 10 SCSCC with a panel of cytokeratins and p63 to assess the utility of the latter antibody in this differential diagnosis. All 10 SCSCC showed strong expression of p63, whereas all 20 AFX were p63 negative. Two additional cases (excluded from the study) were negative for keratins and S100 on initial shave biopsies, resulting in a favored diagnosis of AFX, but p63 stains performed retrospectively were positive. However, review of the excision specimens in both cases revealed deep subcutaneous extension, excluding AFX. p63 reactivity argues against the diagnosis of AFX and is therefore a useful addition to the standard immunohistochemical panel for cutaneous spindle cell neoplasms.