P40 (ΔNp63) is superior to p63 for the diagnosis of pulmonary squamous cell carcinoma
Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse
Tumor Suppressor Proteins
Immunohistochemistry has recently emerged as a powerful ancillary tool for differentiating lung adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma-a distinction with important therapeutic implications. Although the most frequently recommended squamous marker p63 is extremely sensitive, it suffers from low specificity due to its reactivity in a substantial proportion of lung adenocarcinomas and other tumor types, particularly lymphomas. p40 is a relatively unknown antibody that recognizes ΔNp63-a p63 isoform suggested to be highly specific for squamous/basal cells. Here we compared the standard p63 antibody (4A4) and p40 in a series of 470 tumors from the archives of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and The Johns Hopkins Hospital, which included lung squamous cell carcinomas (n=81), adenocarcinomas (n=237), and large cell lymphomas (n=152). The p63 was positive in 100% of squamous cell carcinomas, 31% of adenocarcinomas, and 54% of large cell lymphomas (sensitivity 100%, specificity 60%). In contrast, although p40 was also positive in 100% of squamous cell carcinomas, only 3% of adenocarcinomas, and none of large cell lymphomas had p40 labeling (sensitivity 100%, specificity 98%). The mean percentage of p63 versus p40-immunoreactive cells in squamous cell carcinomas was equivalent (97 vs 96%, respectively, P=0.73). Rare adenocarcinomas with p40 labeling had reactivity in no more than 5% of tumor cells, whereas the mean (range) of p63-positive cells in adenocarcinomas and lymphomas was 26% (1-90%) and 48% (2-100%), respectively. In summary, p40 is equivalent to p63 in sensitivity for squamous cell carcinoma, but it is markedly superior to p63 in specificity, which eliminates a potential pitfall of misinterpreting a p63-positive adenocarcinoma or unsuspected lymphoma as squamous cell carcinoma. These findings strongly support the routine use of p40 in place of p63 for the diagnosis of pulmonary squamous cell carcinoma.