A comparative evaluation of immunohistochemical markers for the differential diagnosis of malignant pleural tumours

Histopathology. 1998 May;32(5):462-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2559.1998.00405.x.


Aims: To determine the value of immunocytochemistry in differentiation of malignant pleural mesothelioma from carcinoma in a pleural biopsy using commercially available monoclonal antibodies.

Methods and results: A panel of monoclonal antibodies against keratins, epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), epithelial antigen Ber-EP4, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), tumour-associated glycoprotein (B72.3), Leu-M1, CD30 (Ber-H2), vimentin and desmin, was applied to 40 cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma and 23 cases of carcinoma metastatic to the pleura (16 pulmonary and seven extrapulmonary). Positivities for Ber-EP4, CEA, B72.3 and Leu-M1 were found to have the highest nosologic sensitivities (87.0%, 65.2%, 52.5% and 43.5%, respectively) and specificities (97.5%, 97.5%, 100% and 95%, respectively) for carcinoma. Positive staining for vimentin had the highest sensitivity (87.5%) with 95.7% specificity for mesothelioma. Positive staining for desmin was found in 45% of mesotheliomas and 0% of carcinomas. Diagnostic sensitivity and diagnostic specificity (P-values) were calculated for these markers. In respect to the diagnostic power defined by the clinically relevant predictive values of positive and negative tests, we found that a two-marker panel of antibodies including vimentin and Ber-EP4 is most useful for the histopathological distinction between carcinoma (pulmonary or extrapulmonary) and malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Conclusions: A combination of Ber-EP4 and vimentin provides the most sensitive and specific pair of markers for distinguishing between malignant pleural mesothelioma and carcinoma metastatic to the pleura. The prevalence of the tested tumours should be taken into account when evaluating the clinical value of ancillary techniques in pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoma / chemistry
  • Carcinoma / secondary*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Mesothelioma / chemistry
  • Mesothelioma / diagnosis*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Pleural Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Vimentin / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Vimentin
  • Keratins