KRAS mutational analysis and immunohistochemical studies can help distinguish pancreatic metastases from primary lung adenocarcinomas

Mod Pathol. 2014 Feb;27(2):262-70. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2013.146. Epub 2013 Jul 26.


Lung metastases from primary pancreatic adenocarcinomas often have mucinous features, which makes them difficult to distinguish from the primary lung adenocarcinoma. We explored the potential utility of KRAS mutational status and immunohistochemical studies in the evaluation of adenocarcinomas in the lungs of patients with known pancreatic cancer. Metastatic pancreatic cancer cases had fewer solitary lung lesions (5 (15%) versus 37 (95%) for lung primaries; P=0.0001), more tumors with pure (100%) mucinous morphology (16 (50%) versus 9 (23%) for lung primaries; P=0.0037), and more frequent KRAS mutations (24 (75%) versus 18 (46%) for lung primaries; P=0.0093). Presence of the KRAS G12C mutation had 96% specificity and positive predictive value for lung adenocarcinoma, whereas G12R was 99% specific for pancreatic cancer with a positive predictive value of 86%. Of the 18 KRAS mutated mucinous lung tumors, only 3 (16%) occurred in nonsmokers. Conversely, of the 19 KRAS mutated pancreatic cancer metastases, 11 (58%) occurred in nonsmokers. The median overall survival was significantly shorter for patients with metastatic tumors when compared with patients with primary mucinous tumors (19 months, 95% confidence interval, 10-28 months versus 55 months, 95% confidence interval, 39-70 months, P=0.005). CK20 and CDX2 positivity supported metastatic pancreatic cancer, whereas TTF-1 positivity supported primary lung adenocarcinoma. In summary, KRAS G12C mutations, TTF-1, and napsin A were associated with primary lung adenocarcinoma, whereas KRAS G12R mutations, CK20, and CDX2 favored pancreatic adenocarcinoma. We showed survival differences for patients whose pancreatic metastases were synchronous versus metachronous to their primary tumors, and for patients with mucinous pancreatic cancer metastases versus primary mucinous lung adenocarcinomas. Differences in KRAS mutations reflect differences in exposure to tobacco smoking and highlight biological differences between two KRAS oncogene-driven cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / secondary*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins