The potential role of flow cytometry in the diagnosis of small cell carcinoma.

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CONTEXT: Virtually no information exists in the medical literature on the immunophenotyping of small cell carcinoma by flow cytometry. CD56, or neural cell adhesion molecule, is widely expressed by small cell carcinoma and easily measured by flow cytometry.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the potential usefulness of flow cytometry in the diagnosis of small cell carcinoma.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Retrospective data and archival material on 27 patients were obtained from community hospitals. Specimens (needle aspirations and tissue biopsies) from all patients demonstrated cytomorphologic and flow cytometric features consistent with small cell carcinoma. All measurements were performed at a large reference laboratory. Routine 3- and 4-color flow cytometry using a lymphoma antibody panel, including anti-CD56, was performed. Anti-cytokeratin antibody was also used in the last 12 cases. Immunohistochemical staining with a panel of conventional markers for neuroendocrine neoplasms was performed on available tissue for purposes of confirmation of small cell carcinoma.

PATIENTS: Twenty-seven patients whose tissue specimens showed a clearly defined population of CD45-CD56+ cells by flow cytometry and cytomorphologic features consistent with small cell carcinoma.

INTERVENTIONS: Needle aspiration (n = 3) and tissue biopsy (n = 24) from a variety of sites.

RESULTS: CD56 positivity by flow cytometry was 100 to 1000 times that of the matched isotype control in 25 cases and 10 to 100 times that of the control in 2 cases. Cytokeratin positivity by flow cytometry was found in 12 of 12 cases. Immunohistochemical staining showed positivity for at least 1 cytokeratin and 1 or more neuroendocrine markers in 26 of 27 cases and confirmed the diagnosis of small cell carcinoma.

CONCLUSIONS: Routine flow cytometry can identify a neuroendocrine phenotype that shows a strong correlation with confirmatory immunohistochemical markers in cases exhibiting cytomorphologic features of small cell carcinoma. Flow cytometry appears to complement and may possibly be a satisfactory alternative to immunohistochemical staining when small cell carcinoma is suspected.





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Medical Pathology | Pathology




Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Pathology Laboratory Medicine Faculty

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