Overexpression of α1 chain of type XI collagen (COL11A1) aids in the diagnosis of invasive carcinoma in endoscopically removed malignant colorectal polyps

Pathol Res Pract. 2016 Jun;212(6):545-8. doi: 10.1016/j.prp.2016.03.005. Epub 2016 Mar 16.


Introduction: The histologic distinction between benign misplaced adenomatous mucosa and invasive adenocarcinoma in colorectal polyps can be challenging. The α1 chain of type XI collagen (COL11A1) has been shown to be overexpressed in cancer-associated stromal fibroblasts. The aim of this study was to investigate the operating characteristics of COL11A1 immunostaining in benign and malignant colorectal polyps as a potential diagnostic aid.

Materials and methods: Sixty-six endoscopically-removed paraffin-embedded colorectal polyps were stained with anti-COL11A1 antibody. They comprised 50 malignant polyps (MPs) with invasive adenocarcinoma (including 5 with concurrent benign misplaced adenomatous mucosa) and 16 adenomas, 11 with and 5 without benign misplaced adenomatous mucosa.

Results: COL11A1 was expressed either diffusely or focally in cancer-associated desmoplastic fibroblasts in 72.0% (36/50) of MPs. The rates of COL11A1 expression and the immunohistochemical staining patterns of the COL11A1 were positively correlated with the depth of cancer invasion in MPs. COL11A1 was expressed in all 9 (100%) MPs with a mucinous component and in 16/18 (88.9%) MPs associated with significant electrocautery effects. COL11A1 was not expressed adjacent to conventional adenomas or in the stroma adjacent to misplaced adenomatous mucosa.

Conclusions: COL11A1 antibody can assist in distinguishing the cancer-associated desmoplastic stroma from that associated with misplaced adenomatous mucosa. It is particularly helpful when electrocautery artifacts or mucin pools interfere with the diagnosis of invasive carcinoma. However, COL11A1 has limited value in diagnosing superfically invasive carcinomas with very little desmoplastic stroma due to its low positive rate and focal expression in some cases.

Keywords: Desmoplastic stroma; Invasive adenocarcinoma; Malignant colorectal polyps; Misplaced adenomatous mucosa; α1 chain of type XI collagen (COL11A1).

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenoma / metabolism
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Collagen Type XI / metabolism*
  • Colonic Polyps / metabolism*
  • Colonic Polyps / pathology
  • Colonic Polyps / surgery
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • COL11A1 protein, human
  • Collagen Type XI