JOURNAL ARTICLE

Microphthalmia transcription factor and melanoma cell adhesion molecule expression distinguish desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma from morphologic mimics

M B Koch, I M Shih, S W Weiss, A L Folpe
American Journal of Surgical Pathology 2001, 25 (1): 58-64
11145252
Desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma is a rare variant of melanoma. A number of factors complicate the diagnosis of desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma, including the variable absence of a lentiginous component, its spindle cell morphology, and its many morphologic mimics, including scars, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, neurofibroma, atypical fibroxanthoma, and spindled carcinoma. The immunohistochemical confirmation of desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma may also be difficult, because the majority of tumors are negative for specific melanocytic markers such as HMB-45 and Melan-A, despite their usual expression of S-100 protein. Two new and potentially promising melanocytic markers, microphthalmia transcription factor (MiTF) and melanoma cell adhesion molecule (Mel-CAM), have been shown to be sensitive markers of epithelioid melanoma, but have not been tested in desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma or in other rare melanocytic neuroectodermal tumors such as clear cell sarcoma. We immunostained 79 tumors (20 desmoplastic/spindle cell melanomas, 10 scars, 10 neurofibromas, 12 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, 10 atypical fibroxanthomas, 10 clear cell sarcomas, 3 melanotic schwannomas, and 4 cellular blue nevi) for MiTF and Mel-CAM. MiTF expression was seen in 11 of 20 desmoplastic/spindle cell melanomas, 0 of 10 scars, 2 of 10 neurofibromas, 0 of 12 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, 1 of 10 atypical fibroxanthomas, 7 of 10 clear cell sarcomas, 3 of 3 melanotic schwannomas, and 3 of 4 cellular blue nevi. Mel-CAM expression was present in 14 of 17 desmoplastic/spindle cell melanomas, 0 of 10 scars, 4 of 10 neurofibromas, 3 of 11 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, 0 of 10 atypical fibroxanthomas, 9 of 10 clear cell sarcomas, 3 of 3 melanotic schwannomas, and 0 of 4 cellular blue nevi. MiTF and Mel-CAM were coexpressed in 6 of 17 desmoplastic/spindle cell melanomas and in no other tumor. Regarding desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma, scar, neurofibroma, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, and atypical fibroxanthoma, the sensitivity and specificity of MiTF for desmoplastic/spindle cell melanoma were 55% and 91%, respectively. For this same group of tumors, Mel-CAM had a sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 83%. We conclude that the sensitivity and specificity of MiTF for desmoplastic melanoma equals or exceeds that of such markers as HMB-45 or Melan-A, and that MiTF should be part of the initial immunohistochemical panel for the work-up of such cases. Mel-CAM, while very sensitive, is relatively nonspecific, because it is also expressed in a variety of mesenchymal tumors and carcinomas. Mel-CAM is best reserved for cases morphologically suspected to be desmoplastic/ spindle cell melanoma, in which S-100 is positive and MiTF and other melanocytic markers are negative. These markers may also be helpful in certain other differential diagnoses, such as distinguishing clear cell sarcomas from epithelioid malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

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