D2-40 is Not a Specific Marker for Cells of Mesothelial Origin in Serous Effusions

American Journal of Surgical Pathology. 2006 Jul;30(7):878-82. [Link]

Bassarova AV, Nesland JM, Davidson B.

Pathology Clinic, The National Hospital-The Norwegian Radium Hospital, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


The presence of effusion in a patient with a history of primary malignant tumor elsewhere in the body is generally accepted as a clinical manifestation of metastatic disease. Even in those cases, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate reactive mesothelial cells from carcinoma cells. Another challenging issue especially in the field of serous effusions is the differential diagnosis between malignant mesothelioma and metastatic adenocarcinoma. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential use of the D2-40 antibody detecting the M2A oncofetal antigen in the diagnosis of malignant serous effusions. Two hundred and ninety effusion specimens (169 ovarian carcinomas, 44 breast carcinomas, 32 malignant mesotheliomas, 6 lung carcinomas, 8 reactive specimens, and 31 tumors of other origin) were assessed. Expression in reactive mesothelial cells was additionally assessed on 145 malignant effusions. Immunohistochemical analysis using the EnVision system was performed. M2A antigen was expressed in malignant mesotheliomas and reactive mesothelial cells in all specimens. Positive membranous staining was observed in 58% of ovarian carcinomas, 33% of lung carcinomas, and 30% of breast carcinomas. Pulmonary, breast, and nonovarian gynecologic tumors usually showed weak focal membranous staining, whereas the ovarian adenocarcinomas showed an expression pattern more similar to mesotheliomas.

The results from the present study suggest low specificity for D2-40 as a mesothelial marker, especially in the context of differentiating mesothelial cells from ovarian carcinoma, and argue against its inclusion in the diagnostic panel of serous effusions.