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Tubulolobular Carcinoma of the Breast: An Analysis of 27 Cases of a Tumor With a Hybrid Morphology and Immunoprofile

Wheeler, Darren T. MD*; Tai, Lisa H. MD; Bratthauer, Gary L. MS, MT (ASCP)*; Waldner, Dale L. MD; Tavassoli, Fattaneh A. MD§

The American Journal of Surgical Pathology: December 2004 - Volume 28 - Issue 12 - p 1587-1593
Original Article

Tubulolobular carcinoma (TLC) is a rare subtype of mammary carcinoma that has eluded precise classification, exhibiting features of both ductal and lobular differentiation. The clinicopathologic features of 27 cases of TLC were analyzed by both hematoxylin and eosin and immunohistochemical stains for E-cadherin and 34βE12 (high molecular weight cytokeratin). Five cases of both pure tubular and classic lobular carcinoma were included as controls. Patients with TLC ranged in age from 43 to 79 years (median, 60 years). Tumor characteristics were as follows: size, 0.5 cm to 2.5 cm (median, 1.4 cm); bilaterality, 1 of 27 (4%); and multifocality, 5 of 27 (19%). Twenty-two of the 27 cases (81%) contained an in situ component: 8 (36%) lobular (LIN); 4 (18%) ductal (DIN); and 10 (46%) mixed. All 27 cases were intensely positive (3+) for E-cadherin, a feature of ductal differentiation, while 25 of 27 (93%) cases showed variable positivity for 34βE12 (1 to 3+), a feature far more common in tumors with lobular differentiation. Clinical follow-up was available on 25 of 27 (93%) patients. Three of 24 (13%) patients developed axillary lymph node metastases and 1 of 25 (4%) patients developed a local recurrence over a follow-up period of 2 to 91 months (median, 39 months). In conclusion, TLCs are a distinct subtype of mammary carcinoma with overlapping morphologic features that are mirrored by a hybrid immunohistochemical profile. The uniform 3+ expression of E-cadherin in TLC supports the ductal differentiation of these tumors, despite a dominant lobular growth pattern. The prognosis of these tumors appears to be excellent, especially in those cases that are unilateral and less than 2 cm in size.

From the *Department of Gynecologic and Breast Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC; †Department of Pathology, Potomac Hospital, Woodbridge, VA; ‡Department of Pathology, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA; and §Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

The opinions and assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as representing the views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

Reprints: Darren T. Wheeler, MD, Department of Gynecologic and Breast Pathology, Bldg. 54, Room 1072, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, 6825 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20306-6000 (e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.