The foveolar cell component of gastric cancer

R. Fiocca, L. Villani, P. Tenti, M. Cornaggia, G. Finzi, C. Riva, C. Capella, J. Bara, I. M. Samloff, E. Solcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


M1, a mucin antigen, and cathepsin E, an aspartic proteinase, are both expressed in normal gastric superficial-foveolar epithelial cells. In this study, we determined by immunohistochemical staining the prevalence of these antigens in 316 gastric cancers representative of the main histologic types and stages of the disease. M1 was expressed in 201 cases (64%) and cathepsin E was expressed in 235 cases (75%) of the 313 cases investigated. Both antigens were expressed more commonly in diffuse and mixed cancers than in glandular tumors. M1 was found in 64 of 83 (77%) diffuse cancers and in 48 of 59 (81%) mixed cancers, but in only 74 of 146 (51%) glandular cancers. For cathepsin E, the prevalence was 93% in diffuse cancer, 81% in mixed cancer, and 71% in the 143 glandular cancers examined. Among 25 mucoid tumors, 15 (60%) expressed M1 but only eight (32%) expressed cathepsin E. Overall, 262 (84%) of the tumors expressed at least one of these antigens and of these, 173 (66%) expressed both antigens. No significant difference in the prevalence of M1 or cathepsin E was found between early and advanced cancer or between metastatic and nonmetastatic cancer. The two markers differed in their intracellular localization. In superficial-foveolar cells, M1 immunostaining was concentrated in secretory granules, Golgi complex, and luminal mucous, whereas cathepsin E was found in the endoplasmic reticulum. Moreover, cathepsin E, but not M1, was found in the enterocytes of duodenal villi and, occasionally, in mucopeptic cells. Parallel histochemical and ulrastructural investigations confirmed the occurrence in gastric cancer of foveolar-type cells, manifested by periodic acid-Schiff-and/or alcian blue-reactive mucous granules having a punctate substructure. We conclude that superficial-foveolar cell differentiation is common in gastric cancer and is a major component of this type of tumor. However, pure foveolar cell differentiation is rare. Rather, most gastric cancers consist of cells exhibiting features of foveolar, intestinal, and mucopeptic cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-92
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • cytology
  • electron microscopy
  • foveolar cells
  • gastric cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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