The significance of epithelial differentiation in mixed mesodermal tumors of the uterus. A clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical study

P. Bitterman, B. Chun, R. J. Kurman

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Mixed mesodermal tumors and carcinosarcomas of the uterus are classified as sarcomas. However, in other sites, malignant biphasic tumors may be classified as carcinomas, mesotheliomas, or sarcomas. In order to clarify their behavior and patterns of differentiation, we performed a clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical study of 22 cases aimed at analyzing the pattern of spread and histologic appearance of the metastasis, as well as the distribution of intermediate filaments in the primary tumor and the metastasis. Four monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) were used to detect epithelial lineage, three that recognize keratin (AE1/AE3, CAM5.2, MAK6) and one that recognizes epithelial membrane antigen (EMA). A Mab against vimentin was also used. Metastases involved the omentum, pelvic peritoneum, ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic or para-aortic lymph nodes, liver parenchyma, and tonsil. These metastases were composed of carcinoma only. Lymphatic/vascular invasion was identified in 11 cases; it consisted exclusively of carcinoma. In all 12 cases evaluated immunohistochemically, keratin and EMA were identified in the majority of the cells in the epithelial component and in a more focal distribution in the spindle cell component in 11 (92%). Vimentin was detected in the majority of spindle cells in nine cases (75%) and in a more focal distribution in the epithelial component in six cases (50%). In the spindle cell component, keratin and EMA were present in widely scattered individual spindle-shaped and rounded cells, within solid clusters of rounded cells, and in nests of cells with small lumens. The distribution of keratin, EMA, and vimentin in the metastases (carcinoma in all instances) was similar to the epithelial component in the primary tumor. Our findings indicate that the epithelial component of these tumors invades lymphatic/vascular spaces and metastasizes, whereas the spindle cell component has limited metastatic potential, if any. Since the behavior of these neoplasms is dictated by the epithelial element, we believe that mixed mesodermal tumors of the uterus should be classified as carcinomas rather than sarcomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-328
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990


  • Uterus
  • carcinosarcoma
  • immunohistochemistry
  • mixed mesodermal tumor
  • mixed mullerian tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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