Immunohistochemistry in diagnostic surgical pathology of the prostate

Semin Diagn Pathol. 2005 Feb;22(1):88-104. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2005.11.001.


Immunohistochemistry (IHC) can play an important role in diagnostic surgical pathology of the prostate. Basal cell markers, such as the 34betaE12 antibody and antibodies directed against cytokeratin 5 and 6 or p63, are very useful for demonstration of basal cells as their presence argues against a diagnosis of invasive prostatic carcinoma (PC). However, several benign mimickers of PC, including atrophy, atypical adenomatous hyperplasia (AAH), nephrogenic adenoma, and mesonephric hyperplasia, can stain negatively with these markers, and thus, a negative basal cell marker immunostain alone does not exclude a diagnosis of benignancy. Although there are examples in the literature of high grade PC that stain focally with some of the basal cell markers, these cases are usually readily diagnosed based on H&E appearances and are unlikely to be confused with these benign mimickers. Alpha-methylacyl-coenzyme-A racemase (AMACR) is a sensitive marker of PC (except for a few uncommon variants: atrophic, foamy gland, and pseudohyperplastic variants), and its detection by immunohistochemical staining in atypical prostatic lesions can be very useful in confirming an impression of adenocarcinoma. AMACR expression can also be identified in high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), prostatic atrophy, AAH, and benign prostatic glands, and accordingly, a diagnosis of PC should not be based solely on a positive AMACR immunostain, especially when the luminal staining is weak and/or noncircumferential. The use of AMACR/basal cell antibody cocktails has been found to greatly facilitate the distinction between PC and its benign mimickers, especially when only limited tissue is available for staining. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) and prostate specific acid phosphatase (PSAP) are both quite sensitive and fairly specific markers of PC (there are a few nonprostatic tumors that can express one or both), and are both very helpful in establishing or confirming the diagnosis of PC when the differential diagnosis includes other tumors that can involve the prostate such as urinary bladder urothelial carcinoma. 34betaE12, p63, thrombomodulin, and uroplakin III are additional urothelial associated markers useful in this differential diagnosis. CDX2 and villin are useful markers to diagnostically separate colonic adenocarcinoma from PC. AMACR positivity and negative basal cell marker reactions are useful to confirm the presence of residual PC after hormonal or radiation therapy. Pan-cytokeratin, PSA, and PSAP can also highlight subtle infiltrates of PC with hormonal or radiation therapy effect. PSA and PSAP immunohistochemical stains are valuable in confirming metastatic carcinoma as being of prostatic origin and should always be utilized in the diagnostic evaluation of metastatic adenocarcinoma of unknown primary origin in males.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / therapy
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Leukemia / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Sarcoma / diagnosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor