Thymidylate synthase expression is known to be higher in squamous cell carcinoma than in adenocarcinoma of the lung. It is thought that this is the reason for the poor efficacy of pemetrexed in squamous cell carcinoma. However, there is limited data on thymidylate synthase expression in adenosquamous carcinoma, a distinct subtype of lung cancer containing both squamous and glandular differentiation. Furthermore, molecular alterations like epidermal growth factor receptor and Kirsten rat sarcoma 2 viral oncogene homolog mutations, which are seen in adenocarcinomas, are not well understood in mixed histology tumors such as adenosquamous carcinoma. In our study, we sought to better characterize adenosquamous tumors of the lung. Using immunohistochemistry to evaluate thymidylate synthase protein levels, we found that the expression of thymidylate synthase in these mixed tumors roughly parallel that of squamous cell carcinoma, instead of falling in between squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. Of note, in adenosquamous samples, the expression of thymidylate synthase was more closely correlated within the two components than would be expected by random chance alone. Also, we had a relatively high rate of epidermal growth factor receptor (11%) and Kirsten rat sarcoma 2 viral oncogene homolog (33%) mutations in these specimens, with the mutations showing convergence in both the glandular and squamous components upon microdissection. Our results indicate that adenosquamous carcinomas are not simple mixtures of their two histological components; they rather behave as their own entity, and it is important to further understand their behavior. Given the similarity of thymidylate synthase expression between squamous cell and adenosquamous carcinoma, and that thymidylate synthase is the main target of pemetrexed, we extrapolate that pemetrexed may also have inferior clinical activity in adenosquamous carcinoma.
- lung cancer
- thymidylate synthase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine