The significance of immunohistochemistry in the diagnosis and therapy of neoplasms

Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2002 Apr;2(4):371-93. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2.4.371.


This review article details the diagnostical significance of immunohistochemistry, which has developed during the last quarter of the century. Certainly, the advancement of monoclonal antibody technology has been of great significance in assuring the place of immunohistochemistry in the modern accurate microscopic diagnosis of human neoplasms, as a method of choice in histopathology. The fact still remains that in order to properly assess any immunohistochemical reactivity used for differential diagnostic purposes, the target cells have to be identified as neoplastically transformed cells by routine histopathological techniques. Selected groups of target molecules of great significance in cancer biology are discussed. The discovery of neoplasm-associated antigens has not only made the more accurate diagnosis of human cancer feasible but has also shed light on the extensive immunophenotypical heterogeneity of even the most closely linked human malignancies. The identification of disseminated neoplastically transformed cells by immunohistochemistry has allowed for a clearer picture of cancer invasion and metastasis, as well as the evolution of the tumour cell associated immunophenotype towards increased malignancy. Some possibilities of neoplasm-associated antigen targeted, receptor-directed immunotherapy are discussed and reviewed in this manuscript. Future antineoplastic therapeutical approaches should see the inclusion of a variety of immunotherapies, in the form of an individualised 'cocktail' specific for the particular immunophenotypical pattern associated with each individual patient's neoplastic disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / physiology
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Genes, p53 / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology


  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors