2012 Volume 45 Issue 5 Pages 269-282
Salivary gland tumors are relatively uncommon and there exists a considerable diagnostic difficulty owing to their diverse histological features in individual lesions and the presence of a number of types and variants, in addition to overlapping histological patterns similar to those observed in different tumor entities. The classification is complex, but is closely relevant to the prognostic and therapeutic aspects. Although hematoxylin-eosin staining is still the gold standard method used for the diagnosis, immunohistochemistry (IHC) can enhance the accuracy and be a helpful tool when in cases to investigate the subjects that cannot be assessed by histological examination, such as the cell nature and differentiation status, cell proliferation, and tumor protein expression. This review depicts on the practical diagnostic utility of IHC in salivary gland tumor pathology under the following issues: assessment of cell differentiation, focusing on neoplastic myoepithelial cells; discrimination of histologically mimic tumor groups; diagnosis of specific tumor types, e.g., pleomorphic adenoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, and salivary duct carcinoma; and evaluation of malignancy and prognostic factors. IHC plays a limited, even though important, role in the diagnosis of salivary gland tumors, but is often useful to support the histological assessment. However, unfortunately few tumor type-specific markers are still currently available. For these reasons, IHC should be considered a method that can be used to assist the final diagnosis, and its results themselves do not directly indicate a definitive diagnosis.