Adenomyoepithelial tumours and myoepithelial carcinomas of the breast are primarily defined by the presence of neoplastic cells with a myoepithelial immunophenotype. Current classification schemes are based on purely descriptive features and an assessment of individual prognosis is still problematic.
A series of 27 adenomyoepithelial tumours of the breast was analysed immunohistochemically with antibodies directed against various cytokeratins, p63, smooth muscle alpha-actin (SMA) and vimentin. Additionally, double immunofluorescence and comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) was performed.
Immunohistochemically, all the tumours showed a constant expression of high molecular weight cytokeratins (Ck) Ck5 and Ck14, p63, SMA and vimentin. With exception of one case diagnosed as myoepithelial carcinoma, all tested tumours expressed low molecular weight cytokeratin Ck18 in variable proportions of cells. Even in monophasic tumours lacking obvious glandular differentiation in conventional staining, a number of neoplastic cells still expressed those cytokeratins. Double immunofluorescence revealed tumour cells exclusively staining for Ck5/Ck14 in the presence of other cell populations that co-expressed high molecular weight Ck5/Ck14 as well as either low molecular weight Ck8/18 or SMA. Based on morphology, we assigned the series to three categories, benign, borderline and malignant. This classification was supported by a stepwise increase in cytogenetic alterations on CGH.
Adenomyoepithelial tumours comprise a spectrum of neoplasms consisting of an admixture of glandular and myoepithelial differentiation patterns. As a key component SMA-positive cells co-expressing cytokeratins could be identified. Although categorisation of adenomyoepithelial tumours in benign, borderline and malignant was supported by results of CGH, any assessment of prognosis requires to be firmly based on morphological grounds. At present it is not yet clear, if and to what extent proposed Ck5-positive progenitor cells contribute to the immunohistochemical and morphological heterogeneity of these neoplasms of the breast.