The value of calretinin and cytokeratin 5/6 as markers for mesothelioma in cell block preparations of serous effusions

Cytopathology. 2007 Oct 4; [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Shield PW, Koivurinne K.

Cytology Department, Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, Taringa, Queensland, Australia


Objective: To determine the value of calretinin and cytokeratin (CK) 5/6 in discriminating mesothelioma from adenocarcinoma in serous effusion specimens.

Methods: A total of 101 recent, histologically or clinically confirmed malignant effusions with immunostained cell block preparations were reviewed. The cases consisted of 34 mesotheliomas and 67 adenocarcinomas. This included 17 ascitic fluid and 84 pleural fluid samples. The adenocarcinomas included metastatic carcinomas from the breast (12), lung (19), stomach (3), colon (1), pancreas (2), ovary (6) endometrium (1) and 23 histologically confirmed metastases from unknown primary sites. The cases were assessed as negative or positive (>5% of cells stained). The staining pattern was recorded as cytoplasmic, cell membrane, nuclear or cytoplasmic and nuclear staining.

Results: Calretinin staining was present in 97% (33/34) of the mesothelioma cases with a majority of them showing both cytoplasmic and nuclear staining (29/33). Only 3% (2/67) of adenocarcinomas were positive for calretinin, one being a lung adenocarcinoma and the other an adenocarcinoma of unknown primary site in an ascitic fluid. Cytokeratin 5/6 staining was also present in 33/34 (97%) of mesothelioma cases. Six (9%) adenocarcinomas were positive, including metastases from the lung (1), breast (1), ovary (2) and unknown primary site (2). Four of the six adenocarcinoma cases positive for CK5/6 were in ascitic fluids. No cases of mesothelioma were negative for both calretinin and CK5/6. Only one adenocarcinoma case, (which was from unknown primary site in an ascitic fluid sample), was positive for both markers.

Conclusions: The results confirm that calretinin and CK 5/6 are useful markers for mesothelioma in effusion specimens. CK5/6 staining may be less useful for peritoneal fluid specimens where metastatic adenocarcinomas may be more likely to express the antigen. Further study of ascitic/peritoneal specimens is warranted. However, positive staining, particularly for both antigens, is highly indicative of a mesothelial origin for cells. The two markers make a useful addition to EMA and the panel of adenocarcinoma markers routinely applied to effusion specimens.