Expression of cytokeratins 7 and 20 in primary carcinomas of the stomach and colorectum and their value in the differential diagnosis of metastatic carcinomas to the ovary

Hum Pathol. 2002 Nov;33(11):1078-85. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2002.129422.


The expressions of cytokeratin (CK) 7 and 20 have been studied in various primary and metastatic carcinomas, and their determination may help distinguish the site of origin of metastatic carcinomas. However, little is known about the factors that determine variations in their expression patterns in primary gastric and colorectal carcinomas. We investigated the expressions of CK7 and CK20 in 289 cases of gastric carcinoma and 225 cases of colorectal carcinoma using a tissue microarray. To evaluate CK7 and CK20 expression patterns of ovarian metastases from gastric or colorectal carcinomas, 54 cases of metastatic carcinomas to the ovary were examined. It was found that 71% (207 of 289) of the gastric carcinomas stained positively for CK7, whereas only 9% (21 of 225) of the colorectal carcinomas proved to be CK7 positive, and that 41% (117 of 289) of the gastric carcinomas and 73% (165 of 225) of the colorectal carcinomas were CK20 positive. The proportion of CK7+/CK20- was highest in the gastric carcinomas at 46% (132 of 289), and was independent of the histologic classification of Lauren (46% of the intestinal type, 45% of the diffuse type). The CK7 and CK20 expression patterns were different in colorectal carcinomas according to histologic grade and location of the tumor. CK7-/CK20+ had the greatest proportion (68%) in colorectal carcinomas, and this was dependent on the tumor's histologic grade (75% of low-grade versus 52% of high-grade) and location (46% of right-sided versus 76% of left-sided). Moreover, 42% (18 of 43) of gastric carcinomas metastatic to the ovary were CK7+/CK20-, whereas 19% (8 of 43) were CK7-/CK20+. All colorectal cancers metastatic to the ovary were CK7-/CK20+, except 1 case that was CK7-/CK20-. In conclusion, the CK7 and CK20 expression patterns in primary gastric carcinomas vary considerably, and those in colorectal carcinomas are associated with histologic grade and tumor location. The CK7-/CK20+ expression pattern is specific for metastatic colorectal carcinomas to the ovary, but has low predictability for colorectal origin in metastatic ovarian carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / classification
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / classification
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / secondary
  • Stomach Neoplasms / classification
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tissue Embedding / methods


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • KRT7 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins