Aspects of histopathologic subtype as a prognostic factor in 85 pleural mesotheliomas

Chest. 1996 Jan;109(1):109-14. doi: 10.1378/chest.109.1.109.


Background: The prognosis of patients with pleural mesothelioma is more dependent on "pretreatment factors" than on the effect of therapeutic interventions. Histopathologic subtype is one of several important prognostic factors in pleural mesothelioma, and several studies indicate that the epithelial subtype of pleural mesotheliomas has a more favorable prognosis than the sarcomatoid. In this study, we retrospectively evaluated qualitative and quantitative aspects of the tissue specimens used for histopathologic diagnosis in 85 patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Materials and methods: The prognostic roles of two different histopathologic classification systems were evaluated in 85 consecutive cases of pleural mesotheliomas. Efficiency of different diagnostic procedures, influence of the size of the biopsy specimens on the histopathologic diagnosis, and immunohistochemical profiles for histopathologic subtypes of mesotheliomas were also evaluated.

Results: Patients with pure epithelial mesotheliomas (n = 35), and especially those with the tubulopapillary subtype (n = 18) of epithelial mesotheliomas, survived significantly longer than those with a sarcomatoid component (n = 50). With larger biopsy specimens (surgical biopsy, autopsy), more tumors were classified as biphasic (36/78 vs 9/44, p < 0.005). The sarcomatoid mesotheliomas comprised about 20% of the tumors regardless of type of biopsy. Staining intensity for cytokeratin CAM 5.2 was equal in all types of mesotheliomas, while intensity with cytokeratin AE1/AE3 decreased from the epithelial to the sarcomatoid mesotheliomas. Staining with vimentin was most intense among the sarcomatoid mesotheliomas, while with epithelial membrane antigen it was most intense among the epithelial mesotheliomas.

Conclusions: The quality of the biopsy specimens has considerable impact on the possibility to arrive at a correct histopathologic diagnosis. Based on our results, we suggest tubulopapillary mesotheliomas be regarded as "low-grade mesotheliomas" and other types, including the epithelioid type of epithelial mesotheliomas, as "high-grade mesotheliomas." This should be taken into account when designing clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Coloring Agents
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / classification
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Mucin-1 / analysis
  • Pleural Neoplasms / classification
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Vimentin / analysis


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Coloring Agents
  • Mucin-1
  • Vimentin
  • Keratins