Sensitivity and specificity of immunohistochemical antibodies used to distinguish between benign and malignant pleural disease: a systematic review of published reports

Histopathology. 2006 Dec;49(6):561-8. [Link]

King J, Thatcher N, Pickering C, Hasleton P.

Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK.


Aims: A systematic review of published reports that have evaluated the ability of immunohistochemistry and argyrophil nucleolar organizing region (AgNOR) staining to distinguish between benign and malignant pleural disease.

Methods: Nineteen relevant papers published during the period 1979–2005 were identified. Individual results of immunohistochemistry for five diagnostic antibodies were extracted to calculate diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. Results from five of these studies that had evaluated proliferation markers or AgNOR staining techniques were also summarized.

Results: Most antibodies demonstrated poor to moderate diagnostic ability. Desmin and epithelial membrane antigen (EMA) were the most useful, with sensitivity and specificity both above 74%. The combination of EMA and AgNOR was reported as having 95% diagnostic sensitivity. A high MCM2 labelling index also differentiated between benign and malignant pleural disease.

Conclusions: Immunohistochemistry is of limited value, but newer diagnostic methods may be useful additions in this area of pathology. The diagnostic importance of histological features seen on plain tissue sections is emphasized as vital for correctly differentiating between benign pleural disease and malignant pleural mesothelioma.