Hepatocellular carcinoma versus carcinoma metastatic to the liver. Value of stains for carcinoembryonic antigen and naphthylamidase in fine needle aspiration biopsy material

Acta Cytol. Mar-Apr 1990;34(2):192-6.


Staining for amino acid naphthylamidase and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) was examined as an ancillary technique to improve the accuracy of differentiating hepatocellular carcinoma from metastatic carcinoma to the liver in fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy specimens. Twenty-four cases of FNA specimens from the liver, in which air-dried smears and/or cell blocks were available, were examined. Naphthylamidase-positive bile canalicular structures were present in 2 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma and absent in 8 cases of metastatic carcinoma studied. Ninety percent of the hepatocellular carcinomas were immunoreactive with the antibody to CEA, showing a predominantly bile canalicular pattern. Ninety percent of the cases of metastatic carcinoma were positive with the antibody to CEA, showing a diffuse cytoplasmic pattern. These findings indicate that both staining techniques may be useful in differentiating hepatocellular carcinoma from metastatic carcinoma. Since the naphthylamidase stain requires air-dried smears, which may not be available, whereas immunocytochemistry can be done on fixed material, the latter technique is more practical.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary*
  • Aminopeptidases / analysis*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis*
  • Carcinoma / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis*
  • Clinical Enzyme Tests
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Predictive Value of Tests


  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Aminopeptidases