MYB RNA detection by in situ hybridisation has high sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of adenoid cystic carcinoma

Pathology. 2023 Jun;55(4):456-465. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2023.01.007. Epub 2023 Mar 21.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is one of the most common primary salivary gland cancers. ACC has several benign and malignant mimics amongst salivary gland neoplasms. An accurate diagnosis of ACC is essential for optimal management of the patients and their follow-up. Upregulation of MYB has been described in 85-90% of ACC, but not in other salivary gland neoplasms. In ACC, MYB upregulation can occur as a result of a genetic rearrangement t(6;9) (q22-23;p23-24), MYB copy number variation (CNV), or enhancer hijacking of MYB. All mechanisms of MYB upregulation result in increased RNA transcription that can be detected using RNA in situ hybridisation (ISH) methods. In this study, utilising 138 primary salivary gland neoplasms including 78 ACC, we evaluate the diagnostic utility of MYB RNA ISH for distinguishing ACC from other primary salivary gland neoplasms with a prominent cribriform architecture including pleomorphic adenoma, basal cell adenoma, basal cell adenocarcinoma, epithelial myoepithelial carcinoma, and polymorphous adenocarcinoma. Fluorescent in situ hybridisation and next generation sequencing were also performed to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of RNA ISH for detecting increased MYB RNA when MYB gene alterations were present. Detection of MYB RNA has 92.3% sensitivity and 98.2% specificity for a diagnosis of ACC amongst salivary gland neoplasms. The sensitivity of MYB RNA detection by ISH (92.3%) is significantly higher than that of the FISH MYB break-apart probe (42%) for ACC. Next generation sequencing did not demonstrate MYB alterations in cases that lacked MYB RNA overexpression indicating high sensitivity of MYB RNA ISH for detecting MYB gene alterations. The possibility that the sensitivity may be higher in clinical practice with contemporary samples as compared with older retrospective tissue samples with RNA degradation is not entirely excluded. In addition to the high sensitivity and specificity, MYB RNA testing can be performed using standard IHC platforms and protocols and evaluated using brightfield microscopy making it a time and cost-efficient diagnostic tool in routine clinical practice.

Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma; MYB; RNA; basal cell adenocarcinoma; basal cell adenoma; epithelial myoepithelial carcinoma; in situ hybridisation; next generation sequencing; pleomorphic adenoma; polymorphous adenocarcinoma; salivary gland.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma* / pathology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic* / metabolism
  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MYB protein, human