Immunohistochemistry should undergo robust validation equivalent to that of molecular diagnostics

Kelly Elliott, Stephen McQuaid, Manuel Salto-Tellez, Perry Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is a widely available and highly utilised tool in diagnostic histopathology and is used to guide treatment options as well as provide prognostic information. IHC is subjected to qualitative and subjective assessment, which has been criticised for a lack of stringency, while PCR-based molecular diagnostic validations by comparison are regarded as very rigorous. It is essential that IHC tests are validated through evidence-based procedures. With the move to ISO15189 (2012), not just of the accuracy, specificity and reproducibility of each test need to be determined and managed, but also the degree of uncertainty and the delivery of such tests. The recent update to ISO 15189 (2012) states that it is appropriate to consider the potential uncertainty of measurement of the value obtained in the laboratory and how that may impact on prognostic or predictive thresholds. In order to highlight the problems surrounding IHC validity, we reviewed the measurement of Ki67and p53 in the literature. Both of these biomarkers have been incorporated into clinical care by pathology laboratories worldwide. The variation seen appears excessive even when measuring centrally stained slides from the same cases. We therefore propose in this paper to establish the basis on which IHC laboratories can bring the same level of robust validation seen in the molecular pathology laboratories and the principles applied to all routine IHC tests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-770
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Observer Variation
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Workflow


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