Aims: Immunohistochemistry plays a pivotal role in cancer differential diagnostics. To identify the primary tumour from a metastasis specimen remains a significant challenge, despite the availability of an increasing number of antibodies. The aim of the present study was to provide evidence-based data on the diagnostic power of antibodies used frequently for clinical differential diagnostics.
Methods and results: A tissue microarray cohort comprising 940 tumour samples, of which 502 were metastatic lesions, representing tumours from 18 different organs and four non-localized cancer types, was analysed using immunohistochemistry with 27 well-established antibodies used in clinical differential diagnostics. Few antibodies, e.g. prostate-specific antigen and thyroglobulin, showed a cancer type-related sensitivity and specificity of more than 95%. A majority of the antibodies showed a low degree of sensitivity and specificity for defined cancer types. Combinations of antibodies provided limited added value for differential diagnostics of cancer types.
Conclusions: The results from analysing 27 diagnostic antibodies on consecutive sections of 940 defined tumours provide a unique repository of data that can empower a more optimal use of clinical immunohistochemistry. Our results highlight the benefit of immunohistochemistry and the unmet need for novel markers to improve differential diagnostics of cancer.
Keywords: biological tumour markers; differential diagnosis; immunohistochemistry; surgical pathology; tissue microarray analysis.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.