Distinguishing pulmonary sarcomatoid carcinoma from pleural sarcomatoid mesothelioma is challenging because of overlapping histology, immunophenotype, and clinical features. Reliable immunohistochemical markers to aid in this distinction would be very valuable. Recent studies have proposed that MUC4 expression is common in sarcomatoid carcinoma but not in sarcomatoid mesothelioma, with the converse pattern reported for GATA3.


To further explore the utility of MUC4 and GATA3 in distinguishing pulmonary sarcomatoid carcinoma from sarcomatoid mesothelioma.


Well-characterized cases of sarcomatoid carcinoma (n = 32) and sarcomatoid mesothelioma (n = 64) were included. Diagnoses were confirmed by thoracic pathologists with incorporation of immunophenotype, clinical, and radiographic features. Whole-tissue sections were stained for GATA3 and MUC4.


Patients with sarcomatoid carcinoma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma had similar mean age and male predominance. GATA3 was positive in 63 of 64 sarcomatoid mesotheliomas (98%; 42 diffuse, 16 patchy, 5 focal), and 15 of 32 sarcomatoid carcinomas (47%; 3 diffuse, 8 patchy, 4 focal). MUC4 was positive in 2 of 64 sarcomatoid mesotheliomas (3%; 1 patchy, 1 focal), and in 12 of 32 sarcomatoid carcinomas (38%; 5 diffuse, 6 patchy, 1 focal).


Diffuse GATA3 expression favors sarcomatoid mesothelioma over sarcomatoid carcinoma, which rarely shows diffuse expression (sensitivity and specificity of diffuse staining 66% and 94%, respectively). Focal and patchy GATA3 expression is observed in both tumor types, and therefore is not helpful in this distinction. Sensitivity of MUC4 for sarcomatoid carcinoma was low in our cohort, positive in only 38% with frequent patchy staining, but it was quite specific.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.