Immunohistochemistry of pulmonary and pleural neoplasia

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2008 Jul;132(7):1062-72. doi: 10.5858/2008-132-1062-IOPAPN.


Context: The use of immunohistochemical stains has several applications in the evaluation of pulmonary and pleural neoplasms. The number of available immunohistochemical stains is continually expanding and, although these stains are an important diagnostic adjunct, their use is not without limitations and pitfalls.

Objective: To review and summarize the primary immunohistochemical applications with regard to the most common pulmonary and pleural neoplasms and discuss newly developed markers and common pitfalls.

Data sources: Pertinent peer-reviewed literature emphasizing immunohistochemical applications in common lung and pleural tumors, unusual and problematic staining patterns in frequently encountered subtypes/histologic variants, and recently developed immunohistochemical stains of potential promise.

Conclusions: Immunohistochemical stains provide the greatest aid in establishing the site of origin of adenocarcinomas encountered in the lung and in separating epithelioid mesothelioma from adenocarcinoma. Certain subtypes of pulmonary adenocarcinomas may exhibit unusual staining patterns that may be potentially problematic. Immunohistochemistry has a more limited role in separating small cell carcinoma from non-small cell carcinoma, and extreme caution must be used in the situation of crushed biopsy specimens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry* / methods
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pleural Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor