Potential utility of p53 immunopositivity in differentiation of adenocarcinomas from reactive epithelial atypias of the lung

Philip T. Cagle, Armando E. Fraire, S. Donald Greenberg, Adriana Cox, Richard W. Brown

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10 Scopus citations


Reactive atypia of alveolar epithelium occurs in many types of lung injury and may sometimes raise suspicions of adenocarcinoma or bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. To assess whether there is sufficient difference in the frequency of p53 protein immunopositivity in these lesions to provide a practical basis for differentiating malignancy from reactive atypia, we immunostained 110 malignant and inflammatory/fibrotic lung specimens for p53 protein. Paraffin-embedded sections were immunostained with p53 protein antibody (clone BP53-12; BioGenex, San Ramon, CA) and standard capillary gap (Microprobe; Fisher Scientific, Fairlawn, NJ) avidin- biotin complex technique with antigen retrieval solution. Percent of immunopositive cells was semiquantitatively categorized as follows: 0%, less than 1%, 1% to 10%, 10% to 50%, more than 50%. Of reactive atypias, 94% are negative or show p53 immunopositivity in less than 10% of cells. Of p53 positive malignancies, 86% are positive in more than 10% of cells. When p53 immunopositivity occurs in more than 10% of atypical cells, the lesion is usually a malignancy, primarily adenocarcinoma. Most reactive atypias are immunopositive in less than 10% of atypical cells. Important caveats were noted. Rare reactive atypias are p53 immunopositive in greater than 10% of cells. Bronchioloalveolar carcinomas are infrequently p53 immunopositive. Therefore, this approach would be less useful in their differentiation from reactive atypias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1198-1203
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • adenocarcinoma
  • immunohistochemistry
  • lung cancer
  • p53
  • tumor suppressor gene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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