Comparative immunohistochemical profile of hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, and metastatic adenocarcinoma

Hum Pathol. 2002 Dec;33(12):1175-81. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2002.130104.


Distinguishing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) from cholangiocarcinoma (CC) and metastatic adenocarcinoma (MA) involving the liver can be problematic, often requiring the use of immunohistochemistry to facilitate diagnosis. Hep Par 1, a monoclonal antibody with expression confined primarily to benign and malignant hepatocytes, has recently become commercially available. We evaluated Hep Par 1 along with other immunohistochemical markers used to differentiate HCC, CC, and MA, including AE1/AE3, CAM 5.2, B72.3, monoclonal carcinoembryonic antigen (mCEA), polyclonal CEA (pCEA), alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), factor XIIIa, inhibin, CD10, villin, MOC-31, cytokeratin (CK) 7, CK 19, and CK 20, to determine the markers most useful in differentiating these entities. Forty-two cases of HCC, 9 cases of CC, and 56 cases of MA (24 colon, 15 pancreas, 8 ovary, 5 breast, and 4 stomach) were studied. Hep Par 1 was sensitive and specific for HCC, with 38 of 42 (90%) cases staining positively, whereas reactivity was observed in only 8 of 56 (14%) MAs and 0 of 9 CCs. Though limited somewhat by poor sensitivity, a bile canalicular pattern of staining with pCEA, CD10, and villin was specific for HCC and was not observed in the other tumors. Lack of mCEA and MOC-31 immunoreactivity was also characteristic of HCCs. CK 19 positivity favored CC over HCC, but was not useful in differentiating CC from MA. Expression of AFP, although observed in only about one third of the cases, favored HCC over CC and MA. CK 7 and CK 20 were also useful in this differential diagnosis, particularly when dealing with MA of colonic origin. AE1/AE3, CAM 5.2, B72.3, inhibin, and factor XIIIa were noncontributory in differentiating these entities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / chemistry*
  • Carrier Proteins / analysis
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / chemistry*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Microfilament Proteins / analysis
  • Neprilysin / analysis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • villin
  • Keratins
  • Neprilysin