Best Practices Recommendations for Diagnostic Immunohistochemistry in Lung Cancer

J Thorac Oncol. 2019 Mar;14(3):377-407. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2018.12.005. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Since the 2015 WHO classification was introduced into clinical practice, immunohistochemistry (IHC) has figured prominently in lung cancer diagnosis. In addition to distinction of small cell versus non-small cell carcinoma, patients' treatment of choice is directly linked to histologic subtypes of non-small cell carcinoma, which pertains to IHC results, particularly for poorly differentiated tumors. The use of IHC has improved diagnostic accuracy in the classification of lung carcinoma, but the interpretation of IHC results remains challenging in some instances. Also, pathologists must be aware of many interpretation pitfalls, and the use of IHC should be efficient to spare the tissue for molecular testing. The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Pathology Committee received questions on practical application and interpretation of IHC in lung cancer diagnosis. After discussions in several International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Pathology Committee meetings, the issues and caveats were summarized in terms of 11 key questions covering common and important diagnostic situations in a daily clinical practice with some relevant challenging queries. The questions cover topics such as the best IHC markers for distinguishing NSCLC subtypes, differences in thyroid transcription factor 1 clones, and the utility of IHC in diagnosing uncommon subtypes of lung cancer and distinguishing primary from metastatic tumors. This article provides answers and explanations for the key questions about the use of IHC in diagnosis of lung carcinoma, representing viewpoints of experts in thoracic pathology that should assist the community in the appropriate use of IHC in diagnostic pathology.

Keywords: Immunohistochemistry; Lung cancer; Neuroendocrine markers; TTF1; p40.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / immunology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • Lung Neoplasms / classification
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Prognosis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor