Application of immunohistochemistry in diagnosis and management of malignant mesothelioma

David B. Chapel, Jefree J. Schulte, Aliya N. Husain, Thomas Krausz


Immunohistochemistry plays an indispensable role in accurate diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, particularly in morphologically challenging cases and in biopsy and cytology specimens, where tumor architecture is difficult or impossible to evaluate. Application of a targeted panel of mesothelial- and epithelial-specific markers permits correct identification of tumor lineage in the vast majority of cases. An immunopanel including two mesothelial markers (calretinin, CK5/6, WT-1, or D2-40) and two epithelial markers (MOC-31 and claudin-4) offers good sensitivity and specificity, with adjustments as appropriate for the differential diagnosis. Once mesothelial lineage is established, malignancy-specific studies can help verify a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. BAP1 loss, CDKN2A homozygous deletion, and MTAP loss are highly specific markers of malignancy in a mesothelial lesion, and they attain acceptable diagnostic sensitivity when applied as a diagnostic panel. Novel markers of malignancy, such as 5-hmC loss and increased EZH2 expression, are promising, but have not yet achieved widespread clinical adoption. Some diagnostic markers also have prognostic significance, and PD-L1 immunohistochemistry may predict tumor response to immunotherapy. Application and interpretation of these immnuomarkers should always be guided by clinical history, radiographic findings, and above all histomorphology.