Cytokeratin 7 and 20 staining for the diagnosis of lung and colorectal adenocarcinoma

S. Kummar, M. Fogarasi, A. Canova, A. Mota, T. Ciesielski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The origin of metastatic adenocarcinoma lesions can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. The objectives of our study were to establish the cytokeratin staining pattern of primary and metastatic lung and colorectal adenocarcinomas, and to determine if this helps to identify the site of origin of metastatic lesions. We reviewed a total of 102 tissue samples from patients in our tumour registry, with either primary or metastatic lung or colorectal adenocarcinoma. Tissue sections were stained for cytokeratin 7 and 20 and read as positive or negative for staining. Clinical and radiologic information was reviewed from computerised charts. The cytokeratin 7+/cytokeratin 20- pattern characterised 96% (29 out of 30) of primary and 95% (21 out of 22) of metastatic lung adenocarcinomas. All the primary (26), and 88% (21 out of 24) of metastatic colorectal adenocarcinomas stained cytokeratin 7-/cytokeratin 20+. Samples from a variety of metastatic sites were evaluated for cytokeratin 7 and 20 staining. Out of the 102 samples, in 95% (97 out of 102) of the cases, the cytokeratin 7 and cytokeratin 20 staining pattern characterised and differentiated between lung and colorectal adenocarcinoma. Primary and metastatic lung adenocarcinomas show a cytokeratin 7+/cytokeratin 20- staining pattern, while colorectal adenocarcinomas stain cytokeratin 7-/cytokeratin 20+. Cytokeratin staining is helpful in the diagnostic differentiation of metastatic lesions from these two common primaries, and assists in determining the site of origin of metastatic lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1884-1887
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 17 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenocarcinoma of unknown primary
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cytokeratin staining
  • Lung adenocarcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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