Is the sum of positive neuroendocrine immunohistochemical stains useful for diagnosis of large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) on biopsy specimens?

Jules L. Derks, Anne-Marie C. Dingemans*, Robert-Jan van Suylen, Michael A. den Bakker, Ronald A. M. Damhuis, Esther C. van den Broek, Ernst-Jan Speel, Erik Thunnissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)


Aims Pulmonary large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) is underdiagnosed on biopsy specimens. We evaluated if routine neuroendocrine immunohistochemical (IHC) stains are helpful in the diagnosis of LCNEC on biopsy specimens. Methods and results Using the Dutch pathology registry (PALGA), surgically resected LCNEC with matching pre-operative biopsy specimens were identified and haematoxylin and IHC slides (CD56, chromogranin-A, synaptophysin) requested. Subsequently, three pathologists assigned (1) the presence or absence of the WHO 2015 criteria and (2) cumulative size of all (biopsy) specimens. For validation, a tissue microarray (TMA) of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (n = 77) and LCNEC (n = 19) was used. LCNEC was confirmed on the resection specimens in 32 of 48 re-reviewed cases. In 47% (n = 15 of 32) LCNEC was also confirmed in the paired biopsy specimens. Neuroendocrine morphology was absent in 53% (n = 17 of 32) of paired biopsy specimens, more often when smaller amounts of tissue were available for evaluation [29% <5 mm (n = 14) versus 67% >= 5 mm (n = 18) P = 0.04]. Combined with current WHO criteria, positive staining for greater than or equal to two of three neuroendocrine IHC markers increased the sensitivity for LCNEC from 47% to 93% on paired biopsy specimens, and further validated using an independent TMA of LCNEC and NSCLC with sensitivity and specificity of 80% and 99%, respectively. Conclusions LCNEC is difficult to diagnose because neuroendocrine morphology is frequently absent in biopsy specimens. In NSCLC devoid of obvious morphological squamous or adenocarcinoma features, positive staining in greater than or equal to two of three neuroendocrine IHC stains supports the diagnosis of LCNEC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-566
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • carcinoma
  • neuroendocrine (MESH)
  • lung neoplasms (MESH)
  • diagnosis (MESH)
  • biopsy (MESH)
  • sensitivity and specificity (MESH)
  • WHO classification

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