Paget's disease and melanoma of the vulva. Use of a panel of monoclonal antibodies to identify cell type and to microscopically define adequacy of surgical margins

Gynecol Oncol. 1992 Aug;46(2):216-21. doi: 10.1016/0090-8258(92)90258-k.


The ability of a panel of monoclonal antibodies generated in this laboratory to identify "pagetoid" melanoma cells and distinguish them from true Paget's adenocarcinoma cells in a retrospective analysis of vulvar neoplasms was investigated. Paraffin blocks of formalin and Carnoy's fixed tissue from 15 cases of vulvar Paget's disease and 11 cases of primary vulvar melanoma were retrieved and sections were incubated with the following panel of monoclonal antibodies: HMB45, a melanoma-specific monoclonal antibody; and 35 beta H11 and 34 beta E12, two different anti-cytokeratin monoclonal antibodies, to low molecular and high molecular weight cytokeratins, respectively. The anti-melanoma monoclonal antibody (HMB45) positively identified the melanoma cells, distinguishing them from normal melanocytes, in all 11 cases of melanoma. In contrast, the HMB45 antibody failed to react with the intraepithelial neoplastic cells in all cases of Paget's disease. These latter malignant cells were strongly positive only with the monoclonal anti-low molecular weight cytokeratin antibody 35 beta H11. This latter antibody absolutely distinguished tumor cells from neighboring uninvolved squamous epithelium, which was positive only with the monoclonal antibody 34 beta E12. Using this panel of monoclonal antibodies, the surgical margins could also be better evaluated; in at least one case the surgical margin thought by histological evaluation to be free of tumor was demonstrated by immunocytochemistry to be positive for tumor. In the vulvectomy specimens obtained in both diseases, Paget's or melanoma cells were identified in sections histologically interpreted as free of tumor. Thus, a panel of monoclonal antibodies is able to identify, with high sensitivity and specificity, vulvar melanoma cells and absolutely distinguish them from vulvar Paget's cells and can help in evaluating surgical margins in a more accurate manner.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Keratins / immunology
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / surgery
  • Molecular Weight
  • Paget Disease, Extramammary / pathology*
  • Paget Disease, Extramammary / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / surgery


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Keratins