SMARCA4-deficient pulmonary adenocarcinoma: clinicopathological, immunohistochemical, and molecular characteristics of a novel aggressive neoplasm with a consistent TTF1neg/CK7pos/HepPar-1pos immunophenotype

Virchows Arch. 2017 Nov;471(5):599-609. doi: 10.1007/s00428-017-2148-5. Epub 2017 May 30.


Alterations in SMARCA4, a member of the chromatin remodeling Switch Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) complex, characterize a subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but detailed morphological and immunophenotypic description of this tumor type is lacking. We describe 20 NSCLC cases found on routine screening not to express SMARCA4 by immunohistochemistry (IHC). These tumors were stained for CK7, TTF1, SMARCA2, SMARCA4, SMARCB1, and HepPar-1 and analyzed for molecular alterations, using a 160 cancer-related gene panel including the full coding sequence of SMARCA4. Patients were eight females and 12 males aged 41 to 76 (median, 60). Of 18 tumors with detailed data, 14 presented with synchronous distant metastases (M1). Histological examination showed predominantly solid adenocarcinoma (n = 15), frankly rhabdoid (n = 3) and mucinous (n = 2) patterns. Except for the rhabdoid cases, all tumors showed at least focal unequivocal glands and lacked squamous differentiation, justifying a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma. IHC showed a distinctive uniform immunophenotype (CK7+/HepPar-1+/TTF1-) in 18/20 cases. Only 2/16 cases showed limited weak expression of neuroendocrine markers. EGFR mutations and EML4-ALK and ROS1 gene rearrangements were not found in any of the examined cases. Next-generation sequencing, using a 160 cancer-related gene panel, revealed concurrent SMARCA4 and TP53 mutations in nine of the 12 (75%) successfully tested cases. Our study highlights (1) the morphological diversity of SMARCA4-deficient lung adenocarcinoma, (2) the consistent absence of expression of TTF1 in the presence of expression of HepPar-1, (3) absence of EGFR driver mutations, and (4) frequent inactivating SMARCA4 mutations as underlying mechanism of the observed SMARCA4 protein loss. SMARCA4-deficient pulmonary adenocarcinoma is emerging as a distinctive, albeit phenotypically heterogeneous molecular subgroup of TTF1-negative NSCLC. Uniform HepPar-1 expression in this subset of NSCLC may represent a diagnostic pitfall and merits further studies to explore the mechanisms involved.

Keywords: Adenocarcinoma; Glypican-3; HepPar-1; NSCLC; SALL4; SMARCA2; SMARCA4; SWI/SNF complex.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • DNA Helicases / deficiency*
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Proteins / deficiency*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / deficiency*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • SMARCA4 protein, human
  • DNA Helicases