Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of malignant melanoma: a cytologic and immunocytochemical analysis

Diagn Cytopathol. 1991;7(4):380-6. doi: 10.1002/dc.2840070411.


The immunoreactivity of alcohol-fixed cell blocks from 15 fine-needle aspiration (FNA) specimens of malignant melanoma was investigated using monoclonal antibodies to keratin and vimentin intermediate filaments, melanoma cytoplasmic antigen (HMB-45), and S-100, as well as polyclonal antibodies to S-100. The results were compared with the immunoprofiles obtained using formalin-fixed surgical specimens from 10 of the same patients. In all cases, immunostaining for keratin was negative and immunostaining for vimentin was positive. Immunostaining for HMB-45 was positive in 13/15 aspirates and in 9/10 surgical specimens. Immunostaining for S-100 protein showed the greatest variability in staining, with 5/15 fine needle aspiration biopsies and 9/10 surgical specimens being positive using the polyclonal antibody and only 1/15 FNA specimens and 7/10 surgical specimens being positive using the monoclonal S-100 reagent. Our findings indicate that immunocytochemical studies can be very useful as an adjunct in the FNA diagnosis of melanoma. Also included in our series is an unusual variant of malignant melanoma, the so-called signet ring melanoma. Given the location of the anal verge, the use of immunocytochemical markers was essential in establishing the correct diagnosis in this case. While S-100 protein is of limited value as a marker of melanoma in alcohol-fixed FNA specimens, a definitive diagnosis of malignant melanoma can be made using a panel of antibodies including keratin, vimentin, and HMB-45.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Melanoma / chemistry*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Middle Aged


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor