Cytokeratin 7 and cytokeratin 20 expression in epithelial neoplasms: a survey of 435 cases

Mod Pathol. 2000 Sep;13(9):962-72. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3880175.


Cytokeratin 7 (CK 7) and cytokeratin 20 (CK 20) are low molecular weight cytokeratins. Their anatomic distribution is generally restricted to epithelia and their neoplasms. We surveyed 435 epithelial neoplasms from various organ systems by immunohistochemistry using CK 7 and CK 20 monoclonal antibodies. Expression of CK 7 was seen in the majority of cases of carcinoma, with the exception of those carcinomas arising from the colon, prostate, kidney, and thymus; carcinoid tumors of the lung and gastrointestinal tract origin; and Merkel cell tumor of the skin. The majority of cases of squamous cell carcinoma of various origins were negative for CK 7, except cervical squamous cell carcinoma, in which 87% of cases were positive. Approximately two thirds of cases of malignant mesothelioma were CK 7-positive. CK 20 positivity was seen in virtually all cases of colorectal carcinomas and Merkel cell tumors. CK 20-positive staining was also observed in cases of pancreatic carcinomas (62%), gastric carcinoma (50%), cholangiocarcinomas (43%), and transitional cell carcinomas (29%). The expression of CK 20 was virtually absent in carcinomas from other organ systems and in malignant mesothelioma. CK 7- and CK 20-negative epithelial neoplasms included adrenal cortical carcinoma, germ cell tumor, prostate carcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / secondary
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • KRT7 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins