Loss of switch/sucrose non-fermenting complex protein expression in undifferentiated gastrointestinal and pancreatic carcinomas.

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oregon; portland; ppmc


AIMS: Undifferentiated carcinoma refers to an epithelial malignancy that lacks morphological evidence of differentiation. Recent studies have implicated the loss of constitutively expressed switch/sucrose non-fermenting (SWI/SNF) complex subunits in undifferentiated carcinomas of the gastrointestinal tract and other sites. In this study we examine the expression of SWI/SNF and mismatch repair (MMR) proteins in a series of undifferentiated carcinomas from the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreas.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We searched pathology databases from four Canadian health centres for primary undifferentiated carcinoma from gastrointestinal and pancreatic resection specimens. Upon review of 31 cases, 19 were confirmed to be undifferentiated carcinomas (eight colonic, six gastric, three pancreatic, one appendiceal and one duodenal). Immunohistochemical analysis of SMARCA4, SMARCA2, SMARCB1, ARID1A, ARID1B, MSH2, MSH6, MLH1 and PMS2 was performed on whole sections. Five of 19 (26%) showed loss of core SWI/SNF proteins (two loss of SMARCA4, one loss of SMARCB1 and two concurrent loss of ARID1A and ARID1B). SMARCA4, SMARCB1, or ARID1A/ARID1B-deficient undifferentiated carcinoma consistently exhibited sheet-like growth pattern, with cellular discohesion and rhabdoid morphology. Nine of 17 undifferentiated carcinomas tested were MMR-deficient by immunohistochemistry. In comparison, none of the 12 poorly differentiated carcinomas that were originally diagnosed as undifferentiated carcinomas showed loss of SMARCA4, SMARCA2, SMARCB1 or ARID1B.

CONCLUSIONS: Undifferentiated gastrointestinal/pancreatic carcinomas show frequent loss of expression of SWI/SNF complex proteins. The loss of these core components of SWI/SNF complex may contribute to the arrest of cellular differentiation, resulting in the undifferentiated histology and aggressive clinical behaviour.

Clinical Institute


Clinical Institute

Digestive Health


Pathology & Laboratory Medicine