Cancerization of the Pancreatic Ducts: Demonstration of a Common and Under-recognized Process Using Immunolabeling of Paired Duct Lesions and Invasive Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma for p53 and Smad4 Expression

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Invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) can infiltrate back into and spread along preexisting pancreatic ducts and ductules in a process known as cancerization of ducts (COD). Histologically COD can mimic high-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HG-PanIN). We reviewed pancreatic resections from 100 patients with PDAC for the presence or absence of ducts with histologic features of COD. Features supporting COD included adjacent histologically similar invasive PDAC and an abrupt transition between markedly atypical intraductal epithelium and normal duct epithelium or circumferential involvement of a duct. As the TP53 and SMAD4 genes are frequently targeted in invasive PDAC but not HG-PanIN, paired PDAC and histologically suspected COD lesions were immunolabeled with antibodies to the p53 and Smad4 proteins. Suspected COD was identified on hematoxylin and eosin sections in 89 (89%) of the cases. Immunolabeling for p53 and Smad4 was performed in 68 (76%) of 89 cases. p53 was interpretable in 55 cases and all 55 (100%) cases showed concordant labeling between COD and invasive PDAC. There was matched aberrant p53 immunolabeling in 37 (67%) cases including overexpression in 30 (55%) cases and lack of expression in 7 (13%) cases. Smad4 immunolabeling was interpretable in 61 cases and 59 (97%) cases showed concordant labeling between COD and invasive PDAC. Matched loss of Smad4 was seen in 28 (46%) cases. The immunolabeling of invasive PDAC and COD for p53 and Smad4 supports the high prevalence of COD observed on hematoxylin and eosin and highlights the utility of p53 and Smad4 immunolabeling in differentiating COD and HG-PanIN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1556-1561
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018



  • Smad4
  • cancerization of ducts
  • p53
  • pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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