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Adenocarcinoma simulating mesothelioma: A clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical study of 29 cases

Annals of Diagnostic Pathology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s1092-9134(98)80045-2
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


We report 29 cases of adenocarcinomas whose clinical, gross, and microscopic appearance resembled diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma. Initial criteria for inclusion in the study included availability of an open pleural biopsy or decortication specimen and microscopic evidence of neutral (periodic acid-Schiff positive) mucin in the tumor. The median age of the patients was 63 years (range, 31 to 78 years), with a peak age in the seventh decade. There were 24 men and five women. Thirteen of them had a history of smoking; six (21%) had possible or definite occupational exposure to asbestos. Three (21%) of 14 lung specimens showed ferruginous bodies and two (14%) showed microscopic evidence of asbestosis. At least 25 patients had pleural effusion, most typically unilateral. Needle biopsy of pleura showed malignancy in 10 (77%) of 13 cases. Most (20 of 29) patients underwent pleural stripping. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy was each given to three patients without effect. Median survival by Kaplan-Meier estimate was 8 months, with an 18-month survival of 13%. Histologically, glands (23 cases), nests (13 cases), tubulopapillary arrays (12 cases), or sheets (eight cases) of tumor cells were found. Spindling of neoplastic cells was seen in 10% of cases. Three (21%) of 14 lung specimens showed a subpleural adenocarcinoma. Antibodies to polyclonal CEA, Ber-EP4, Leu-M1, and B72.3 were positive in 94%, 56%, 50%, and 44% of cases, respectively. All but one of the cases stained with two or more of the antibodies CEA, Ber-EP4, Leu-M1, or B72.3. This study indicates that adenocarcinomas simulating mesothelioma are aggressive variants of peripheral adenocarcinomas with a poor prognosis, that they can show pathological evidence of asbestos exposure in a subset of cases, and that immunohistochemical and histochemical stains are useful in their differential diagnosis with diffuse malignant mesotheliomas.

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