Background: High frequencies of the BRAF V600E mutation have been reported in pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA). Recently, a BRAF V600E mutation-specific antibody has been developed and validated. We evaluated the immunohistochemical (IHC) detection of BRAF V600E mutation in PXA by comparing to gold standard molecular analysis and investigating the interobserver variability of the IHC scoring. We performed BRAF V600E IHC in 46 cases, of which 37 (80%) cases had sufficient tumor tissue for molecular analysis. IHC detection was performed using monoclonal mouse antibody VE1 (Spring Bioscience). IHC slides were scored independently by four reviewers blind to molecular data, including a primary (gold standard) and three additional reviewers. BRAF V600E mutation status was assessed by allele-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with fragment analysis.
Results: All 46 cases showed interpretable BRAF V600E IHC results: 27 (59%) were positive (strong cytoplasmic staining), 19 (41%) were negative (6 of these cases with focal/diffuse weak cytoplasmic staining, interpreted as nonspecific by the primary reviewer). By molecular analysis, all 37 cases that could be tested had evaluable results: 22 (59%) cases were positive for BRAF V600E mutation and were scored as "IHC-positive", and 15 (41%) were negative (including 11 cases scored as "IHC-negative" and 4 cases scored as negative with minimal nonspecific staining). IHC detection of BRAF V600E mutant protein was congruent in all 37 cases that were successfully evaluated by molecular testing (sensitivity and specificity of 100%). Agreement for IHC scoring among the 4 reviewers was almost perfect (kappa 0.92) when cases were scored as "positive/negative" and substantial (kappa 0.78) when minimal nonspecific staining was taken into account.
Conclusions: We conclude that detection of BRAF V600E mutation by immunohistochemistry is highly sensitive and specific. BRAF V600E IHC interpretation is usually straightforward, but awareness of possible nonspecific staining is necessary and training is recommended. It is a practical rapid method that may avoid the need of labor-intensive molecular testing and may be most valuable in small biopsies unsuitable for molecular analysis.