Cytokeratin expression patterns in noncardia, intestinal metaplasia-associated gastric adenocarcinoma: implication for the evaluation of intestinal metaplasia and tumors at the esophagogastric junction

Cancer. 2002 Feb 1;94(3):820-31. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10215.


Background: Barrett esophagus (BE)/Barrett adenocarcinoma and distal gastric intestinal metaplasia (IM)/adenocarcinoma are similar histologically, but they differ in their clinical presentation, epidemiology, and pathogenesis. Differentiating BE from gastric IM and Barrett adenocarcinoma from gastric adenocarcinoma is difficult, especially when IM is short or tumors are large and involve both sides of the esophagogastric junction. Previously, the authors identified unique cytokeratin (CK) immunoreactivity patterns that were associated strongly with BE and Barrett adenocarcinoma. The specificity of CK7 and CK20 (CK7/20) expression patterns in patients with IM-associated gastric adenocarcinoma, which is distinct epidemiologically from BE/Barrett adenocarcinoma, has not been evaluated. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the CK7/20 expression patterns in noncardia, IM-associated gastric adenocarcinoma in a Chinese population with a low risk for BE and esophageal adenocarcinoma and a high risk for Helicobacter pylori infection and gastric carcinoma.

Methods: Endoscopic biopsy specimens of gastric IM and adjacent tumor from 50 consecutive patients with advanced noncardia gastric carcinoma were immunostained for CK7 and CK20. Clinical and endoscopic features and H. pylori status were documented. Two gastrointestinal pathologists, blinded to clinical and endoscopic data, independently assessed CK7/20 immunohistochemistry.

Results: H. pylori infection was present in 43 of 50 patients (86%). In the area of IM, patchy CK7 staining was seen in 9 patients (18%), and diffuse CK20 staining was seen in all 50 patients (100%). The BE CK7/20 pattern characterized by CK7 staining in superficial and deep glands and the CK20 staining in surface epithelium was not seen in any of the 50 patients. Only one patient (2%) demonstrated a CK7 positive/CK20 negative immunophenotype characteristic of Barrett adenocarcinoma. The remaining 49 patients (98%) showed non-Barrett adenocarcinoma patterns of CK7/20 staining, i.e., a CK7 positive/CK20 positive pattern was seen in 33 patients (66%), a CK7 negative/CK20 positive pattern was seen in 12 patients (24%), and a CK7 negative/CK20 negative pattern was seen in 4 patients (8%).

Conclusions: In a patient population without risk factors for the development of BE/esophageal adenocarcinoma, the CK7/20 pattern characteristic of BE was not present in gastric IM adjacent to adenocarcinoma, and the CK7/20 pattern characteristic of Barrett adenocarcinoma also was extremely rare. These results support the hypothesis that, despite the presence of intestinalized mucosa in both disorders, BE/Barrett adenocarcinoma and gastric IM/adenocarcinoma are two distinct clinical entities with unique demographic, clinical, and CK immunophenotypic findings. These results may have application to the evaluation of patients with IM and adenocarcinoma arising at the esophagogastric junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Aged
  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis
  • Barrett Esophagus / genetics*
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endoscopy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / analysis
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Keratin-20
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors
  • Stomach Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology


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