Immunohistochemical p53 expression patterns in sarcomatoid carcinomas of the upper respiratory tract

Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Aug;26(8):1024-31. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200208000-00007.


Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the upper respiratory tract is a phenotypically complex neoplasm that has triggered much thoughtful discussion regarding histogenic origin and morphologic classification. In particular, its putative epithelial lineage and distinction from a pseudosarcomatous reaction are sometimes questioned. Little is known about the genetic alterations underlying sarcomatoid carcinoma. Although about 45% of conventional squamous cell carcinomas of the upper respiratory tract harbor p53 mutations, the p53 status of sarcomatoid carcinomas is not well established. p53 immunohistochemical analysis using the monoclonal antibody D07 was performed on 23 sarcomatoid carcinomas of the upper respiratory tract. Twenty tumors were biphasic, having dual epithelial and spindled components. In four of these biphasic tumors, the epithelial and spindled components were separately analyzed for p53 gene mutations by sequence analysis. p53 immunohistochemistry was also performed on 19 cases of postradiation stromal atypia. Strong and diffuse p53 staining was detected in 18 (78%) of the 23 sarcomatoid carcinomas. When the spindled component was compared with its corresponding epithelial component, identical patterns of p53 protein expression were noted in 19 (95%) of the 20 biphasic tumors. Weak p53 staining was observed in one (5%) of the 19 cases of postradiation stromal atypia. In the four biphasic tumors evaluated by DNA sequence analysis, p53 status was always the same in the paired epithelial and spindle cell components. These findings help further dispel the notion that sarcomatoid carcinoma represents a reactive spindle cell proliferation (pseudosarcoma) or a collision between a carcinoma and a sarcoma (collision tumor). Instead, the epithelial and spindled components share a common pathway of tumorigenesis despite their conspicuous divergence at the phenotypic level.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • DNA / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sarcoma / genetics
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • DNA