Aims: To undertake a comparative evaluation of three antimesothelial markers (thrombomodulin, cytokeratin 5/6 and calretinin) with broad spectrum cytokeratin (AE1/AE3) in differentiating between sarcomatoid mesothelioma and a spectrum of spindle cell neoplasms.
Methods and results: Thirty-one malignant sarcomatoid mesotheliomas were studied. Calretinin expression was focally identified in 12 (39%) tumours and thrombomodulin and cytokeratin 5/6 immunoreactivity was seen in nine (29%) cases. In comparison there was strong diffuse cytoplasmic reactivity with the broad spectrum cytokeratin (AE1/AE3) in 24 of 31 (77%) tumours. Thirty mixed spindle cells neoplasms were studied. No calretinin expression was identified in any case. Thrombomodulin immunoreactivity was identified in four (16%) cases (two angiosarcomas, two high-grade sarcomas, not otherwise specified). Cytokeratin 5/6 expression was seen in one high-grade pulmonary sarcoma originally termed malignant fibrous histiocytoma. None of the antimesothelial markers was expressed in the four spindle cell carcinomas studied. In contrast, broad spectrum cytokeratin was diffusely expressed in all four spindle cell carcinomas (three pulmonary, one renal), both synovial sarcomas, both malignant mixed Müllerian tumours, one of three pulmonary leiomyosarcomas and two of nine sarcomas, not otherwise specified.
Conclusions: Immunohistochemistry has a more limited role in the diagnosis and distinction of sarcomatoid mesothelioma from other spindle cell neoplasms. The combination of a broad spectrum cytokeratin with calretinin combines both high sensitivity (77% for AE1/AE3) with high specificity (100% for calretinin) for sarcomatoid mesothelioma and can be diagnostically useful. The mesothelial markers, thrombomodulin and cytokeratin 5/6, are not useful alone in the diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma as each shows insufficient antibody sensitivity, although together they complement calretinin.