Aims: Intestinal metaplasia (IM) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of gastro-oesophageal carcinoma, but because of its common occurrence, its specificity for use in cancer surveillance is low. IM subtypes characterized by mucin phenotype have been studied to try and improve specificity.
Methods and results: On balance, type III IM seems the most promising for use in gastric cancer surveillance. The situation is problematic at the gastro-oesophageal junction where the normal occurrence of acidic mucins raises doubt on the value of subtyping. High iron diamine-Alcian blue combination (HID-AB) is commonly used for IM subtyping, but its potential toxicity and long staining period (up to 24 hours) precludes widespread clinical use. This study has compared the sulphomucin staining ability of Gomori's aldehyde fuchsin-Alcian blue combination (GAF-AB) against HID-AB for identifying and subtyping IM in gastric and oesophageal biopsies.
Conclusions: Compared to HID-AB, a sensitivity of 85%, a specificity of 100% and a staining time of less than 30 minutes, shows this stain to be a simple and effective technique for identifying and subtyping IM in routine laboratories.