Merkel cell carcinoma with an unusual immunohistochemical profile

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L. Pilloni *
C. Manieli
G. Senes
D. Ribuffo
G. Faa
(*) Corresponding Author:
L. Pilloni | lucpilloni@tiscali.it

Abstract

The clinical and morphological picture of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) may be rather challenging; therefore, the immunohistochemical profile plays a relevant role in confirming the microscopic diagnosis. A panel of antibodies including cytokeratins 20, 7 and epithelial membrane antigen, and neuronspecific enolase is used in confirming the morphological diagnosis of MCC. The majority of MCCs express CK20 and are CK7-negative. Herein, we present a case of primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma with an atypical immunohistochemical pattern. A 83-years old woman presented with a painless plaque, red to violaceous in colour, located in the leg. The skin tumor was excided, formalin-fixed and paraffinembedded. Tissue sections were immunostained with a panel of antibodies routinely utilized in complex primary skin tumors for evidencing epithelial and neuroendocrine differentiation of tumor cells. The neuroendocrine differentiation of tumor cells was evidenced by their immunoreactivity for synaptophysin, chromograninA and neuron-specific enolase. Tumor cells also showed diffuse cytoplasmic staining for CK7. No immunoreactivity was detected for CK20 and thyroid transcription factor-1. Our data, together with previous rare reports of CK20-/CK7+ MCCs, lay stress on the importance of routinely utilizing a panel of antibodies in the differential diagnosis of complex primary carcinomas of the skin and may have important implications in expanding the differential diagnosis of skin tumors. In particular, caution should be taken in excluding the diagnosis of MCC only on the basis of the absence of reactivity of tumor cells for CK20, favouring the wrong diagnosis of less aggressive skin tumors.

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