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Immunohistochemistry as a Genetic Surrogate in Dermatopathology

Pearls and Pitfalls

Oh, Kei Shing MBBS*; Mahalingam, Meera MBBS, MD, PhD, FRCPath

doi: 10.1097/PAP.0000000000000246
Review Articles

Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is routinely performed in most laboratories, and other than purchase of commercially available antibodies, requires no additional equipment or reagents. As such, IHC is an accessible and relatively inexpensive test and one that can be performed quite quickly. This is in sharp contrast to genomic or mutational testing methodologies that are routinely “send out” tests as they require specialized equipment and reagents as well as individuals with expertise in the performance of the tests and analysis of the results, resulting in a prolonged turn-round-time and enhanced associated costs. However, many open questions remain in a rapidly changing therapeutic and scientific landscape with most obvious one being what exactly is the utility of “good old fashioned” IHC in the age of targeted therapy? For molecular applications, is a negative immunohistochemical result enough as a stand-alone diagnostic or predictive product? Is a positive immunohistochemical result perhaps more suitable for a role in screening for molecular alterations rather than a definitive testing modality? This review is an attempt to answer those very questions. We elucidate the broad range of entities in which IHC is currently used as a molecular surrogate and underscore pearls and pitfalls associated with each. Special attention is given to entities for which targeted therapies are currently available and to entities in which molecular data is of clinical utility as a prognosticator.

*Department of Pathology, Mount Sinai Medical Center of Florida, Miami Beach, FL

Dermatopathology Section, Dermatopathology Section, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, VA-Integrated-Service-Network-1 (VISN1), West Roxbury, MA

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Reprints: Meera Mahalingam, MBBS, MD, PhD, FRCPath, Dermatopathology Section, VA-Integrated-Service-Network-1 (VISN1), Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (113), 1400 VFW Pkwy, West Roxbury, MA 02132 (e-mail:

Online date: September 20, 2019

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