Expression of p16INK4A in Pap Smears Containing Atypical Glandular Cells from the Uterine Cervix

Shin Nieh, Su Feng Chen, Tang Yuan Chu, Hung Cheng Lai, Earl Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To verify one of the diagnostic dilemmas concerning atypical glandular cells (AGC) by immunocytochemical detection of p16INK4A (p16) applied to routine Pap smears with correlation of follow-up biopsies for improvement of cytologic diagnoses. STUDY DESIGN: The study included 36 Pap smears in AGC diagnostic categories, all of which were correlated histologically. The cytologic diagnoses of AGC were further classified according to the 2001 Bethesda System. All Pap smears were decolorized and immunostained with the primary anti-p16 antibody, clone E6H4. Immunoreactivity for p16 was correlated with histologic sections in a semiblind fashion. RESULTS: Of the 36 smears containing AGC, 22 (61%) were reclassified as general AGC and 14 (39%) as A GC-favor neoplasia. Follow-up biopsies revealed that 15 (42%) cervixes had no obvious abnormalities and that 21 (58%) cases had different cervical lesions. More than half the cases (19/36, 53%) of follow-up biopsies concerning AGC-containing smears represented significant lesions. There was a much higher proportion of significant lesions (13/14, 93%) in AGC-favor neoplasia than those (6/22, 27%) in general AGC cases. Fifteen of 36 (36%) AGC-containing cases were actually squamous abnormalities on follow-up biopsies. p16 Immunocytochemical stain was reactive in 22 (61%) of 36 smears, either weakly/sporadically (2 cases, 6%) or strongly positively (20 cases, 55%). Conversely, 14 (39%) of the smears were negative for p16 and displayed predominantly reactive changes. However, there was 1 case of high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion showing negative immunostaining for p16. From the view-point of clinical significance, this analysis was highly sensitive (sensitivity, 95%) and specific (specificity, 88%) and had favorable positive (90%) and negative (94%) predictive values. CONCLUSION: On the basis of both morphologic and immunostaining patterns, there was a clear association between strong p16 immunostaining of atypical cells in smears and the presence of significant lesions in the cervix except in 1 patient. Similarly, there was a clear association between lack of p16 expression and absence of cervical lesions. p16 Immunocytochemical stain can be applied successfully to conventional Pap smears and may serve as a useful biomarker in diagnoses of AGC-containing smears. This may offer a more objective parameter to help clarify this ambiguous area of gynecologic cytopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalActa Cytologica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Atypical glandular cells
  • Cervix neoplasms
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Papanicolaou smear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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