Aims: Strong expression of CD34 and bcl-2 has been described in solitary fibrous tumours. It has been proposed that these lesions arise from long-lived mesenchymal cells. We tested the hypothesis that spindle cell lesions of the breast arise from similar mesenchymal cells in the mammary stroma.
Methods and results: Sections of phyllodes tumours (26), fibroadenomas (15), myofibroblastomas (two), pseudoangiomatous hyperplasia (five) and myoid hamartoma (one) were stained immunohistochemically for CD34 and bcl-2. Conventional mammary carcinoma is known to be CD34-negative: we therefore stained 11 spindle cell carcinomas and one adenosquamous carcinoma. The mammary stroma, particularly around lobules, stained for CD34. All the lesions (except the carcinomas) showed spindle cell staining for CD34. There was more staining in fibroadenomas than in phyllodes tumours (especially malignant tumours). The staining in phyllodes tumours was typically patchy. In some there was increased or decreased staining adjacent to the epithelium. There were occasional spindle cells positive for bcl-2 in the normal perilobular stroma. bcl-2 was frequently expressed in spindle cells in fibroadenomas, phyllodes tumours and pseudoangiomatous hyperplasia, and rarely in the other lesions.
Conclusions: The combined expression of CD34 and bcl-2 suggests that fibroadenomas, phyllodes tumours and pseudoangiomatous hyperplasia may arise from long-lived bcl-2-positive mesenchymal cells in the breast in a manner similar to that proposed for solitary fibrous tumours. The absence of CD34 staining in spindle cell carcinomas is of potential diagnostic value in the distinction from malignant phyllodes tumours in difficult cases.