Metaplastic breast carcinomas: are they of myoepithelial differentiation?: immunohistochemical profile of the sarcomatoid subtype using novel myoepithelial markers

Am J Surg Pathol. 2005 Mar;29(3):347-53. doi: 10.1097/01.pas.0000152133.60278.d2.


We investigated 20 spindle cell (sarcomatoid) metaplastic carcinomas (MCs) without squamous differentiation. In addition, five high-grade phyllodes tumors were assessed for comparison. Our immunohistochemical antibody panel included pan-cytokeratin (CK), low molecular weight CK (CK8/18), four basal cell type CKs (34betaE12, CK5/6, CK14, and CK17), vimentin antibodies, as well as antibodies to established (SMA, CD10, p63, S-100, maspin, calponin, GFAP, SM-myosin), and novel (CD29, 14-3-3sigma) myoepithelial markers. Sixteen of the 20 tumors (80%) expressed at least two markers of the combination CD10/p63/SMA. S-100 detected 1 case negative for CD10/p63/SMA and 3 cases that only expressed one marker of this combination. While 18 MCs (90%) were positive for CD29, 14-3-3sigma (11 cases) and maspin (9 cases) were observed in 55% and 45%, respectively. Antibodies to pan-CK and the basal cell type CKs were strongly reactive in 12 tumors (60%), but in 6 cases (30%) positivity for these markers was weak and only focal; 2 MCs showed no positivity for CK. The stromal component of all phyllodes tumors was positive for vimentin, whereas all other investigated markers were absent except for focal p63 and CD10 expression in 1 case each. Our findings convincingly show a myoepithelial immunophenotype in sarcomatoid MCs, which is demonstrated by the presence of basal cell type CKs and the combination of the established myoepithelial markers CD10, p63, SMA, and S-100. We conclude that tumors with weak or even absent CK expression should only be diagnosed as primary sarcomas of the breast after exclusion of a myoepithelial immunophenotype. CD29 and 14-3-3sigma represent valuable novel myoepithelial markers in these diagnostically difficult cases.

MeSH terms

  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor* / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinosarcoma / metabolism
  • Carcinosarcoma / secondary*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Exonucleases / metabolism
  • Exoribonucleases
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Metaplasia
  • Middle Aged
  • Myoepithelioma / metabolism
  • Myoepithelioma / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism


  • 14-3-3 Proteins
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Integrin beta1
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Exonucleases
  • Exoribonucleases
  • SFN protein, human