Clinicopathological features and the value of differential Cytokeratin 7 and 20 expression in resolving diagnostic dilemmas of ovarian involvement by colorectal adenocarcinoma and vice-versa

Diagn Pathol. 2008 Sep 18;3:39. doi: 10.1186/1746-1596-3-39.


The distinction between metastasis from a colorectal adenocarcinoma into the ovary and an ovarian adenocarcinoma is vital, but challenging at times, due to overlapping morphological features. Similarly, a distinction between an ovarian metastasis into the colorectum and a colorectal adenocarcinoma, although rare; is important and can be daunting. We report an analysis of 20 cases of ovarian involvement by metastatic colorectal adenocarcinomas and colorectal involvement by metastatic ovarian adenocarcinomas, including the value of differential expression of cytokeratins 7 & 20 by immunohistochemistry (IHC), in these cases. Nine cases (45%) were identified as colorectal adenocarcinomas metastatic to the ovary. On biopsy, all these cases showed a 'garland-like' tumor necrosis, with desmoplasia and predominantly exhibited a tubuloalveolar pattern (67% cases). On IHC, all 8 of 9 such cases, where staining for cytokeratin 20 was performed, displayed strong positivity and 7 cases, where staining for carcinoembryogenic antigen (CEA) was performed, revealed positivity for this marker (100%). Other 11 cases (55%) were ovarian adenocarcinomas, metastatic to the colorectum. These showed metachronous presentations, with the ovarian tumor preceding the colorectal tumor deposits. Morphologically, psammomatous calcification was noted in 73% of these cases, whereas 'garland-like' necrosis was absent in all. The chief morphological subtype was serous papillary cystadenocarcinoma (55% cases). On IHC, CK7 and CA 125 were positive in all 6 of 11 such cases, whereas CK 20 was negative in all these cases.In cases of complex presentations like an ovarian involvement by a metastatic colorectal adenocarcinoma and vice-versa, certain clinicopathological features are useful. Differential expression of CK 7 and CK20 is vital in resolving these dilemmas. CK20 positivity and CK7 negativity is associated with a colorectal adenocarcinoma. Markers like CEA and CA-125 have an added value.