POU2F3 in SCLC: Clinicopathologic and Genomic Analysis With a Focus on Its Diagnostic Utility in Neuroendocrine-Low SCLC

J Thorac Oncol. 2022 Sep;17(9):1109-1121. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2022.06.004. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Introduction: POU2F3 is a recent marker of a small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) subtype related to chemosensory tuft cells (SCLC-P). The characteristics of SCLC-P have not been fully defined, and the data on POU2F3 expression in other lung tumors are scarce.

Methods: We screened 254 SCLC for POU2F3 expression and comprehensively analyzed histopathologic, genomic, and clinical characteristics of POU2F3-positive tumors. We also explored POU2F3 expression in other major lung cancer types (n = 433) and a targeted set of potential diagnostic mimics of SCLC (n = 123).

Results: POU2F3 was expressed in 30 of 254 (12%) SCLC and was strongly associated with low expression of standard neuroendocrine markers (synaptophysin, chromogranin A, CD56, INSM1). Notably, POU2F3 was expressed in 75% of SCLC with entirely negative or minimal neuroendocrine marker expression (15/20) and was helpful in supporting the diagnosis of SCLC in such cases. Broad targeted next-generation sequencing revealed that SCLC-P (n = 12) exhibited enrichment in several alterations, including PTEN inactivation, MYC amplifications, and 20q13 amplifications, but similar rates of RB1 and TP53 alterations as other SCLC (n = 155). Beyond SCLC, POU2F3 expression was exclusively limited to large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (12%) and basaloid squamous cell carcinoma (22%).

Conclusions: This is the largest cohort of SCLC-P clinical samples to date, where we describe the diagnostic utility of POU2F3 in a challenging subset of SCLC with low or absent expression of standard neuroendocrine markers. The distinct genomic alterations in SCLC-P may offer a novel avenue for therapeutic targeting. The role of POU2F3 in a narrow subset of other lung cancer types warrants further study.

Keywords: Neuroendocrine-low; POU2F3; SCLC-P; Small cell lung carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms*
  • Octamer Transcription Factors
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Octamer Transcription Factors
  • POU2F3 protein, human
  • Repressor Proteins
  • INSM1 protein, human