Breast Carcinoma vs. Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma

Some authors have estimated that 4-9% of patients with breast carcinoma will eventually develop second pulmonary carcinomas. As a result, many pathologists have been faced with the problem of trying to determine whether a particular lung carcinoma represents metastatic breast carcinoma or a new primary pulmonary adenocarcinoma. This month, we will briefly review antibodies that may be useful in addressing this differential diagnostic problem.

 GCDFP-15 (gross cystic disease fluid protein-15): This marker has good specificity for breast carcinoma, although its sensitivity is not high, as only about 50% of breast carcinomas express this marker. Another potential problem with this marker (particularly when dealing with small biopsy specimens) is that it is often expressed in a focal fashion, occasionally in only a very small percentage of tumor cells. Therefore, the possibility of sampling error must always be kept in mind when dealing with small biopsy specimens stained for this marker. Although I have seen it very rarely expressed in lung carcinoma (<1% of cases), reactivity with this marker supports breast origin over lung origin.

TTF-1 (thyroid transcription factor-1) and PE-10 (surfactant protein A): These two antibodies are wellknown for their ability to serve as markers of pulmonary origin. Only nuclear reactivity with TTF-1 should be assessed, and TTF-1 stains roughly 75% of pulmonary adenocarcinomas. The sensitivity of PE-10 (a cytoplasmic antigen) is substantially less, and from my experience I would estimate that about 30-40% of pulmonary adenocarcinomas express PE-10. It is also important to keep in mind that thyroid carcinoma may express both of these markers (particularly TTF-1), so metastatic thyroid carcinoma to the lung is a potential diagnostic trap. In this situation, identification of reactivity with monoclonal CEA can provide additional support for a primary pulmonary origin, since substantial CEA reactivity is very uncommon in papillary and follicular carcinomas of the thyroid. (Parenthetically, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid characteristically expresses strong and diffuse CEA). I have never personally observed expression of TTF-1 in a breast carcinoma.

Villin: Villin is a marker that is expressed in a very high percentage of GI and related (pancreatic, bile duct, etc.) adenocarcinomas, but it is also expressed in a subpopulation of pulmonary adenocarcinomas. Since it is extremely uncommon for breast carcinoma to show substantial villin immunoreactivity, identification of this marker in a tumor provides evidence against a breast primary origin.

H&E sections (top left and top right) of a lung tumor biopsy from a 65
year-old female with a prior history of ER negative, PR negative invasive
ductal breast carcinoma. Original slides on the breast tumor
were not available for comparison. The villin immunostain (bottom
left) was strongly positive, rendering breast origin highly unlikely.
Pulmonary origin was confirmed by positivity for TTF-1 (bottom middle)
and PE-10 (bottom right).

Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors: It is wellknown that estrogen and progesterone receptors are expressed in the majority of breast carcinomas. Although past conventional wisdom dictated that lung adenocarcinoma was always negative for ER, it is important to realize that a small but significant percentage (probably THE FOCUS Immunohistochemistry H&E sections (top left and top right) of a lung tumor biopsy from a 65 year-old female with a prior history of ER negative, PR negative invasive ductal breast carcinoma. Original slides on the breast tumor were not available for comparison. The villin immunostain (bottom left) was strongly positive, rendering breast origin highly unlikely. Pulmonary origin was confirmed by positivity for TTF-1 (bottom middle) and PE-10 (bottom right). GCDFP-15 about 5-10%) of lung adenocarcinomas do indeed express estrogen receptors (at least when using the 1D5
antibody), and I have seen expression of ER in unequivocal lung adenocarcinomas on multiple occasions. In most instances it is expressed in a "low-level" fashion in lung adenocarcinoma, with a subpopulation of tumor cells showing weak to moderate reactivity. However, on a few occasions I have observed strong reactivity in lung tumors, including several from male patients. When employing the 6F11 clone, Dabbs et al have reported ER positivity in 67% of lung adenocarcinomas! I have not personally observed significant expression of progesterone receptors in lung adenocarcinoma. Obviously, it is always helpful if one is aware of the ER and PR status of the original breast tumor when dealing with potential second primary carcinomas in patients with a prior history of breast carcinoma.

Immunostains on lung FNA cell block from a female smoker with
prior breast carcinoma. The ER immunostain (left) showed moderate
positivity, but the TTF-1 immunostain (right) was strongly positive.
Further history indicated that this patient had a small tubular
carcinoma with no regional node metastases, that was morphologically
different from the lung tumor. This case represented a primary
pulmonary adenocarcinoma that expressed ER. Obviously,
relying on a single ER immunostain to work up this case may have
led to an erroneous diagnosis, underscoring the importance of appropriate
panels of immunostains in working up such cases.

BCL-2: Alsabeh et al published a paper in 1996 calling attention to the potential application of BCL-2 immunostaining to this differential diagnostic problem. In a series of 208 breast carcinomas, 79.3% of the breast tumors expressed BCL-2, in contrast to only 5.6% of 54 lung adenocarcinomas. As such, immunoreactivity with BCL-2 supports breast over lung primary origin.

HBME-1: Miettinen and Kovatich found that HBME- 1 showed significant expression in only 9% (3 of 34 cases) of invasive ductal carcinomas examined, whereas this marker showed significant expression in 45% (23 of 51 cases) of lung adenocarcinomas. As such, expression of HBME-1 favors lung primary over breast primary.

S100 Protein and CEA: Some authors report S100 reactivity in 15-30% of breast carcinomas, but only rarely in lung adenocarcinoma. In addition, others report that CEA may also be useful in this situation, in that strong diffuse expression of CEA is more common in lung carcinoma than breast carcinoma. However, in my practice I have not been impressed with utility of CEA for distinguishing lung from breast carcinoma.

SUMMARY: In summary, I think the combination of TTF-1, GCDFP-15, villin, ER, and PR represents a useful initial panel to attempt to distinguish breast carcinoma from pulmonary carcinoma (keeping in mind that some lung carcinomas may show expression of ER). If the initial battery of immunostains is not diagnostic, other markers such as PE-10, BCL-2, HBME-1, and S100 protein would be reasonable markers to consider.

1. Miettinen M, Kovatich AJ: HBME-1. A Monoclonal Antibody Useful in the Differential Diagnosis of Mesothelioma, Adenocarcinoma, and Bone Tumors. Applied Immunohistochemistry 3(2): 115-122, 1995.
2. Alsabeh R, Wilson CS, Ahn CW, et al: Expression of BCL-2 by Breast Cancer: A Possible Diagnostic Application. Modern Pathology 9(4):439-444, 1996.
3. Raab SS, Berg LC, Swanson PE, Wick MR: Adenocarcinoma in the Lung in Patients with Breast Cancer. A Prospective Analysis of the Discriminatory Value of Immunostains. American Journal of Clinical Pathology 100:27-35, 1993.
4. Wick MR, Lillemoe TJ, Copland GT et al: Gross Cystic Disease Fluid Protein-15 as a Marker for Breast Cancer: Immunohistochemical Analysis of 690 Human Neoplasms and Comparison with Alpha-Lactalbumin. Human Pathology 20 (3):281-287, 1989.
5. Kaufman O, Dietel M: Thyroid Transcription Factor-1 is the superior immunohistochemical marker for pulmonary adenocarcinomas and large cell carcinomas compared to surfactant proteins A and B. Histopathology 36:8-16, 2000.
6. Dabbs DJ, Liu Y, Raab SS et al: Immunohistochemical Detection of Estrogen Receptor in Pulmonary Adenocarcinomas is Dependent Upon the Antibody Used. Modern Pathology 13 (3):208A, abstract #1227, 2000.
7. Bejarano PA, Baugman RP, Biddinger PW et al: Surfactant Proteins and Thyroid Transcription Factor-1 in Pulmonary and Breast Carcinomas. Modern Pathology 9(4):445-452, 1996.
8. Nicholson AG. McCormick CJ, Shimasato Y et al: The Value of PE-10 (SP-A, Lung), a Monoclonal Antibody against Pulmonary Surfactant, in Distinguishing Primary and Metastatic Lung Tumours. Histopathology 27(1):57-60, 1995.


Plastic surgeon Los Angeles said...

There is a lot of help and support for the patients of breast cancer.There are many methods of treatment as well which are making way to longer life and better life quality for the patients.I think the new age medias are also helping spread the research findings and medical updates.

Atlanta plastic surgery said...

Do you mean to say that of there is lung carcinoma then it has chances of spreading into the breasts?If there are lumps in the breast or nearby region they are removed as early as possible...other signs of breast cancer?

peny@online scrubs said...

"In summary, I think the combination of TTF-1, GCDFP-15, villin, ER, and PR represents a useful initial panel to attempt to distinguish breast carcinoma from pulmonary carcinoma"

But how about the difference of these two with regards to their causes and symptoms, eh?

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Breast Enlargement said...

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Interesting Case

Clinical History:

53 years male,History of hypertension and tachycardia,MRI abdomen:-Left adrenal mass:- size 5.8 cm Right renal mass:- size-3.0cm Microscopic examination of the renal mass showed vascular tumor with diffuse sheets of clear cells having Fuhrman grade III nuclei. There was no evidence of necrosis within the tumor. There was no evidence of extraparenchymal invasion.
Gross examination of the left adrenal gland revealed cortically centered, solid and multinodular mass measuring 6.5 x 6.0 x 5.0 cm and weighing 122 grams. The tumor was encapsulated but showed evidence of extraparenchymal penetration. The tumor had golden brown cut surface with areas of hemorrhage and necrosis. The partial nephrectomy showed 3.0cm x 3.0cm x 3.0 cm yellow solid mass which did not invade into the perinephric adipose tissue.
Microscopically, the adrenal mass had predominant diffuse sheets and focal trabecular arrangements. The former pattern was present in about third of tumor. The cells had clear cytoplasm and round to ovoid nuclei with conspicuous nucleoli. Mitotic rate was 9/50 HPF and included atypical forms. Gross necrosis and capsular invasion were documented microscopically. There was no evidence of lymphovascular invasion. Considering the above mentioned features, a Weiss histopathologic score2 of 7/9 was applied.


The differential diagnosis included Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) with contralateral adrenal metastasis, Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) with contralateral renal metastasis, synchronous RCC and ACC or synchronous RCC and adrenocortical adenoma. A panel of immunohistochemical stains was performed to sort out the diagnosis. Adrenal tumor demonstrated strong Vimentin positivity and is negative for CK7, CK20, E1/AE3, EMA, Synaptophysin and S100.Renal cell carcinoma was positive for CK7, AE1/AE3, EMA (weak) and Vimentin. It was negative for CK20, Synaptophysin and S100. The difference of immunoprofile between the two tumors documented that they originated from two different primaries.

Final Diagnosis:

The diagnosis of synchronous RCC and ACC rather than metastasis influences the prognosis.


The longest disease free interval after removal of contralateral adrenal metastasis was 12.1 years8 and the longest crude survival was 14.3 years. In contrast non metastazing RCC has an excellent prognosis if no metastasis developed.