Calretinin, thrombomodulin, CEA, and CD15: a useful combination of immunohistochemical markers for differentiating pleural epithelial mesothelioma from peripheral pulmonary adenocarcinoma

Hum Pathol. 2001 May;32(5):529-36. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2001.24329.


The distinction between pleural epithelial mesothelioma and peripheral lung adenocarcinoma involving the pleura is still an important diagnostic problem for surgical pathologists. The aim of our study was to identify the most specific and sensitive markers for the positive identification of mesothelioma to select a limited, appropriate panel of antibodies to differentiate between mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma. Forty-two cases of epithelial mesotheliomas and 23 cases of pulmonary adenocarcinomas were stained with the following antibodies: anticalretinin, antithrombomodulin, anti-CD44H, and monoclonal antibody HBME-1. We also studied the value of other markers in current use: cytokeratins AE1/AE3 and CAM5.2, epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), Ber-EP4, B72.3, and CD15. Of the mesotheliomas, 42 stained for calretinin, 39 (92.8%) for thrombomodulin, 42 stained for CD44H, and 41 (97.6%) stained for HBME-1. Among negative markers, 4 (9.5%) mesothelioma cases stained for CEA, 5 (11.9%) stained for Ber-EP4, 6 (14.2%) stained for B72.3, and 2 (4.7%) stained for CD15. Of the lung adenocarcinomas, 2 (8.7%) cases showed reactivity for calretinin, 5 (21.7%) for thrombomodulin, 13 (56.5%) for CD44H, all for HBME-1, 22 (95.6%) for CEA, 22 (95.6%) for Ber-EP4, 8 (34.7%) for B72.3, and all for CD15. In conclusion, calretinin and thrombomodulin were the most specific positive mesothelial markers, whereas CD44H and HBME-1 showed high sensitivity but very low specificity. Among negative markers, we advocate the use of CEA and CD15 which were the most specific in differentiating mesotheliomas from adenocarcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry
  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Calbindin 2
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Lewis X Antigen / analysis
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Mesothelioma / chemistry
  • Mesothelioma / diagnosis*
  • Mucin-1 / analysis
  • Pleural Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Pleural Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G / analysis
  • Thrombomodulin / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CALB2 protein, human
  • Calbindin 2
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Lewis X Antigen
  • Mucin-1
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G
  • Thrombomodulin
  • Keratins