Expression of androgen receptor and prostatic specific markers in salivary duct carcinoma: an immunohistochemical analysis of 13 cases and review of the literature

Am J Surg Pathol. 2000 Apr;24(4):579-86. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200004000-00014.


Salivary duct carcinoma (SDC) is an uncommon, pathologically distinct entity characterized by its morphologic resemblance to ductal carcinoma of the breast and highly aggressive behavior. Approximately two thirds of patients die within 4 years of initial diagnosis despite aggressive, combined surgical resection and radiotherapy. Review of the literature indicates that androgen receptor (AR), a marker frequently detected in prostatic carcinoma, is expressed in over 90% of SDCs, whereas two common breast carcinoma markers, estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR), are expressed in only 1.3% and 6% of the tumors, respectively, by immunohistochemistry. This hormonal profile suggests that SDC, in contrast to its histiologic similarity to ductal carcinoma of the breast, is immunophenotypically more related to prostatic carcinoma. To substantiate this hypothesis, we performed immunohistochemical staining of 13 cases of SDC for the presence of AR and two prostatic markers, prostate specific antigen (PSA) and prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP). Our results showed multifocal, scattered, moderate immunostaining for PAP and diffuse, moderate immunostaining for PSA in seven (58.3%) and two (16.7%) cases, respectively. These results create a potential diagnostic challenge to surgical pathologists who are dealing with a metastatic adenocarcinoma of AR+/PSA+/-/PAP+/- phenotype, particularly in male patients of unknown primary. Metastatic salivary duct carcinoma should be given serious thought if clinical investigation fails to reveal a prostatic primary. The immunophenotypic homology that exists between SDC and prostatic carcinoma also suggests that antiandrogen therapy as used in the treatment of prostatic carcinoma might be beneficial in patients with metastatic SDC when all other conventional modalities fail.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / analysis*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / chemistry*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / chemistry*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / analysis*
  • Receptors, Androgen / analysis*
  • Salivary Ducts / chemistry*
  • Salivary Ducts / pathology
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology


  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen