Immunohistochemical staining for phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) does not have either an acceptable standard protocol or concordance of scoring between pathologists. Evaluation of PTEN mRNA with a unique and verified sequence probe may offer a realistic alternative providing a robust and reproducible protocol. In this study, we have evaluated an in situ hybridization (ISH) protocol for PTEN mRNA using RNAScope technology and compared it with a standard protocol for PTEN immunohistochemistry (IHC). PTEN mRNA expression by ISH was consistently more sensitive than PTEN IHC, with 56% of samples on a mixed-tumor tissue microarray (TMA) showing high expression by ISH compared with 42% by IHC. On a prostate TMA, 49% of cases showed high expression by ISH compared with 43% by IHC. Variations in PTEN mRNA expression within malignant epithelium were quantifiable using image analysis on the prostate TMAs. Within tumors, clear overexpression of PTEN mRNA on malignant epithelium compared with benign epithelium was frequently observed and quantified. The use of SpotStudio software in the mixed-tumor TMA allowed for clear demonstration of varying levels of PTEN mRNA between tumor samples by the mRNA methodology. This was evident by the quantifiable differences between distinct oropharyngeal tumors (up to 3-fold increase in average number of spots per cell between 2 cases). mRNA detection of PTEN or other biomarkers, for which optimal or standardized immunohistochemical techniques are not available, represents a means by which heterogeneity of expression within focal regions of tumor can be explored with more confidence.
- School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences - Clinical Professor
- Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research