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Aims: Small cell prostatic cancer is a rare but aggressive disease. Currently, its histogenetic origin is unclear and its distinction from metastatic small cell lung cancer is challenging. The aim of our study was to determine whether the ERG rearrangement commonly observed in acinar prostatic cancer can distinguish small cell prostatic cancer from small cell lung cancer samples. Methods and results: We assessed 15 small cell prostatic cancers and 22 small cell lung cancers for ERG rearrangement using fluorescence in situ hybridization. Commonly used and novel immunohistochemical markers (i.e. androgen receptor, calcium activated nucleotidase 1, Golgi phosphoprotein 2, prostate-specific antigen, prostate-specific membrane antigen, CD56, epithelial membrane antigen, thyroid transcription factor 1, chromogranin A, synaptophysin and Ki67) were further studied. ERG rearrangement occured in 86% of small cell prostatic cancers but in none of the small cell lung cancers and was the best marker to differentiate between both tumours (P < 0.0001). Conclusions: The ERG rearrangement is commonly observed in small cell prostatic cancer, supporting the hypothesis that ERG rearrangement occurs in aggressive prostatic cancers. Furthermore, the ERG rearrangement is the most significant marker to differentiate between small cell prostatic cancer and small cell lung cancer. Moreover, our data suggest that small cell prostatic cancer is not a tumour entity on its own, but a dedifferentiated variant of common acinar prostatic cancer.
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