Role of immunocytochemistry, electron microscopy, and DNA analysis in fine-needle aspiration biopsy diagnosis of Wilms' tumor

Diagn Cytopathol. 1996 Mar;14(2):101-7. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0339(199603)14:2<101::AID-DC1>3.0.CO;2-M.


We reviewed the cytologic features and results of ancillary studies in eight fine-needle aspiration biopsies (FNAB) performed by posterior approach in 8 patients with unresectable Wilms' tumor (WT). Chemotherapy was given following the FNAB diagnosis of WT, which was confirmed subsequently by histologic examination of surgically resected specimens. Indications for FNAB included: unresectable tumor, bilateral disease, initial presentation with metastatic disease, uncertainty regarding tumor site, and documentation of recurrence. Cytologic examination revealed blastemal cells (8/8 aspirates), spindle cells (3/8 aspirates), and epithelial differentiation or tubules (3/8 aspirates). There was no cytologic evidence of anaplasia in any of the cases. Immunocytochemical studies on cell blocks and/or smears showed cytokeratin positivity in 5/8 and vimentin positivity in 5/5 of the aspirates in which these studies were performed. Focal positivity for neuron-specific enolase (NSE) was seen in 3/3 aspirates. Stains for actin and leukocyte-common antigen were negative (0/3 and 0/2 aspirates, respectively). DNA ploidy analysis of the aspiration material by flow cytometry revealed near-diploid populations in three aspirates. Electron microscopic findings helpful for diagnosis included: cell junctions, microvilli, flocculent basement membrane-like material, cilia, autophagolysosomes, and lack of neuroectodermal differentiation. Diagnostic morphologic pitfalls for an incorrect diagnosis of neuroblastoma included nuclear molding (all aspirates), pseudorosette formation (one aspirate), and focal NSE positivity (3/3 aspirates). None of the tumors showed anaplasia on histologic examination. Cytologic recognition of the triphasic cellular components of WT (blastemal cells, spindle cells, and epithelial cells) can be helpful for a correct diagnosis; however, in 5/8 aspirates in this study, only the blastemal component was present. In these cases, immunocytochemical stains and electron microscopy proved useful in arriving at a correct FNAB diagnosis of WT. However, NSE positivity can be a pitfall for a diagnosis of neuroblastoma if the radiologic, clinical, and other cytologic features are not clearly delineated. Presence of cytokeratin and vimentin positivity would be helpful in the diagnosis of WT in such instances.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytodiagnosis
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Wilms Tumor / diagnosis*
  • Wilms Tumor / genetics
  • Wilms Tumor / ultrastructure*


  • DNA, Neoplasm