Background: Differential diagnosis of angiosarcoma, predominantly showing a non- or poorly vasoformative proliferation from other types of sarcomas, poorly differentiated carcinomas, and amelanotic melanoma, is often problematic.
Methods: The use of antibodies directed against Factor VIII-related antigen (FVIIIRA), Ulex europaeus lectin type 1 (UEA-1), CD31, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the diagnosis of angiosarcoma was examined in 98 cases of autopsy-proven angiosarcoma diagnosed during 1974-1990 in a survey of 178 Japanese hospitals. Reactivity of angiosarcoma cells for epithelial membrane antigen, cytokeratin, and melanoma cell antigen (HMB45) also was examined.
Results: Histologic specimens were formed exclusively by vasoformative areas in 32 cases and combined vasoformative and varying extents of non- or poorly vasoformative areas in another 66 cases. In vasoformative areas, the proliferating cells showed a diffuse positive reaction in the cytoplasm and/or cell surface for anti-FVII-IRA in 82 (84%) of 98 cases, for anti-CD31 in 78 (80%), and for UEA-1 in 69 (70%). In non- or poorly vasoformative areas, the positivity rate for FVIIIRA, CD31, and UEA-1 was 29%, 62%, and 46%, respectively. A positive reaction was found for either one of three endothelial markers in the non- or poorly vasoformative areas of 57 cases (86%). Epithelial membrane antigen and anticytokeratin antibody were positive in 4 and 11 cases, respectively, in the vasoformative areas and in 3 and 14 cases, respectively, in non- or poorly vasoformative areas with a simultaneous positive reaction for either one of three endothelial cell markers. None of the proliferating cells showed a positive reactivity for HMB45. The positivity rates of the angiosarcoma cells for each marker were different according to the primary tumor sites. The angiosarcoma cells in non- or poorly vasoformative areas showed the lowest positivity rate for anti-FVIIIRA in the heart (9%) and for anti-CD31 in the extremities (17%) and the highest positivity rate for anticytokeratin in the trunk (60%). Ulex europaeus lectin type 1 had almost the same reactivity rate (30-56%) in every organ. Angiosarcoma cells in 13 (36%) of 36 biopsy specimens and 8 (14%) of 56 autopsy specimens were positive for the anti-VEGF antibody.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that the combined use of endothelial cell markers including FVIIIRA, UEA-1, and CD31 is useful in the diagnosis of angiosarcoma, especially in cases exclusively with a non- or poorly vasoformative pattern.