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Papillary Syncytial Metaplasia Associated With Endometrial Breakdown Exhibits an Immunophenotype That Overlaps With Uterine Serous Carcinoma

McCluggage, W. Glenn F.R.C.Path; McBride, Hilary A. F.I.B.M.S.

International Journal of Gynecological Pathology: May 2012 - Volume 31 - Issue 3 - p 206–210
doi: 10.1097/PGP.0b013e31823bb1a1

Uterine serous carcinoma (USC) is an aggressive variant of Type 2 endometrial carcinoma, which in most cases exhibits, at least focally, a papillary architecture. Occasionally, especially in small biopsy specimens, it may be difficult to distinguish between USC and a variety of metaplastic or reactive processes. In particular, papillary syncytial metaplasia (PSM), as a result of endometrial breakdown, may be confused with USC or its precursor serous endometrial intraepithelial carcinoma. In such cases, immunohistochemistry is often undertaken, the panel of markers usually including estrogen receptor (ER), p53, p16, and MIB1. The expected immunoprofile of USC is ER negative, p53 and p16 positive, and a high MIB1 proliferation index, although studies have shown that significant numbers of cases deviate from this immunophenotype. With regard to the aforementioned markers, PSM has not been studied extensively, but intuitively, the expected immunophenotype would be ER positive, p53 and p16 negative, and a low MIB1 proliferation index. After 2 index cases in which breaking down menstrual endometrium with florid PSM was misdiagnosed on an endometrial biopsy as USC or suspected USC, in part due to the observed immunophenotype, we studied the expression of ER, p53, p16, MIB1, and HMGA2 (a recently described useful marker of USC) in 10 further cases of PSM associated with endometrial breakdown. We illustrate that compared with a nonbreaking down endometrium, PSM is characterized by a decreased expression of ER and an increased expression of p53 (although still wild-type staining) and p16, the latter marker typically being diffusely positive. HMGA2 is negative, and there is a low MIB1 proliferation index. In cases of PSM, which are morphologically problematic, the immunophenotype may further heighten the suspicion of serous malignancy and potentially result in a misdiagnosis.

Department of Pathology, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to W. Glenn McCluggage, FRCPath, Department of Pathology, Royal Group of Hospitals Trust, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BA, Northern Ireland. E-mail:

©2012International Society of Gynecological Pathologists