Histological differentiation of mammary papillary lesions can be difficult. The evaluation of myoepithelial cells can be helpful, with benign papilloma showing a continuous myoepithelial cell layer, which becomes attenuated or absent in malignant papillary lesions.
A large series of 100 papillomas (28 papillomas with florid epithelial hyperplasia) and 68 papillary carcinomas (9 invasive, 44 in situ, and 15 ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS) involving papillomas) of the breast were stained for myoepithelial cells by immunohistochemistry using antibodies to smooth-muscle actin (SMA), p63, CD10 and cytokeratin (CK) 14.
In the papillomas, using these four antibodies, myoepithelial cells were positive in 88%, 99%, 91% and 95% of cases, respectively, with SMA showing marked stromal component cell staining and CD10 showing epithelial and stromal staining. CK14 also showed epithelial staining in 71% of papillomas and 96% of papillomas with florid epithelial hyperplasia. In the papillary carcinomas, 36 (53%) cases showed staining of myoepithelial cells that were scattered, discontinuous and diminished in number and the remaining 32 (47%) cases did not show myoepithelial cells. Invasive papillary carcinoma has the lowest proportion (33%) with myoepithelial cells, and DCIS involving papillomas had the highest proportion (87%).
p63 had the highest sensitivity and did not cross-react with stromal cells and only rarely with epithelial cells. CK14 has the added ability to distinguish between florid epithelial hyperplasia involving papilloma and DCIS involving papillomas. CK14 and p63 may be used as an adjunct in assessing difficult papillary lesions of the breast.