Immunohistochemical evaluation of bone metastases

Costantino Errani, Andreas F. Mavrogenis, Panayiotis D. Megaloikonomos, Thekla Antoniadou, Diego Antonioli, Sofia Avnet, Andrea Pellacani, Nicola Baldini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction. Metastases are the most common type of malignancy involving the bone, while bone is the third most frequent site for metastases, after the lung and liver. In some patients, medical history, physical and laboratory examination are not conclusive to identify the primary tumor site. In such cases a bone biopsy and immunohistochemical analysis may contribute to the diagnosis, determination of appropriate treatment and evaluation of prognosis. In this study, we tried to evaluate the imunochistochemical expression in bone metastases. Material and methods. We reviewed 125 patients, with a mean age of 63 years, treated for bone metastases in our institution. All patients received palliative orthopaedic surgery for bone metastatic carcinoma. Fifty-eight patients had already an established diagnosis of the primary tumor, while 67 patients presented metastases with an unknown primary tumor origin. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed to intra-operative bone biopsy specimens. The expression of cytokeratine 7, cytokeratin 20 and the expression of a panel of other organ-specific markers were recorded. In patients with a known primary tumor, we examined the relationship between the origin of metastases, as suggested by the cytokeratin phenotype, compared with the one indicated by the initial histological diagnosis. We also recorded the efficacy of organ-specific markers to identify the primary tumor origin in epithelial bone metastases and we evaluated the prognosis between patients with a immunohistologically determined primary tumor origin, with those with an undetermined one. Results. Associations of cytokeratine 7 and cytokeratine 20 expression confirmed diagnosis in 51 out of the 58 patients (88%) with a known primary tumor (Cohen's K test 0.79 SE 0.80, P < 0.0005). Immunohistochemical analysis also contributed to establish the diagnosis of patients with an unknown primary tumor, yielding diagnosis in 35 out of the 67 cases (52%). Patients with an immunochistologically undetermined primary tumor site presented a statistically significant poorer prognosis. Conclusions. Cytokeratine 7 and cytokeratine20 are useful immunochistochemical markers in determining a preliminary evaluation of bone metastases. Organ-specific immunohistochemical markers have a reliable role in either suggesting or confirming the possible origin of metastases. An indeterminate immunohistochemical phenotype seems to relate to a less differentiated lesion, with a worse prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 25 2017


  • Bone metastases
  • Cancer of unknown primary origin
  • Cytokeratine 20
  • Cytokeratine 7
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Organ specific markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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