SOX10 Immunoexpression in Basaloid Squamous Cell Carcinomas: A Diagnostic Pitfall for Ruling out Salivary Differentiation


SOX10 immunoexpression is increasingly recognized in salivary gland tumors, including but not limited to those with myoepithelial, serous acinar, and intercalated duct differentiation. However, SOX10 expression has not been extensively evaluated in other epithelial tumors that can mimic salivary origin. Basaloid squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a unique variant of SCC that shows morphologic overlap with several salivary tumors, including adenoid cystic carcinoma, basal cell adenocarcinoma, and myoepithelial carcinoma. We performed SOX10 immunohistochemistry on 22 basaloid SCCs and 280 non-basaloid SCCs. If tissue was available, we also performed immunohistochemistry for S100 and p16, and in-situ hybridization for high-risk HPV RNA. SOX10 was positive in 13/22 basaloid SCCs (59%), including 5/6 (83%) that were HPV-positive and 6/12 (50%) that were HPV-negative. Only 2/12 basaloid SCC (17%) demonstrated focal S100 expression. All non-basaloid SCCs were SOX10 negative. Frequent positivity for SOX10 in basaloid SCC presents a significant diagnostic pitfall for distinguishing these tumors from various basaloid salivary carcinomas. The preponderance of SOX10 expression in the basaloid variant of HPV-positive SCC also presents a diagnostic challenge in separating it from HPV-related multiphenotypic sinonasal carcinoma. SOX10 may be more broadly considered a marker of basal differentiation and should not be assumed to be specific for salivary origin in epithelial head and neck tumors.

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Correspondence to Lisa M. Rooper.

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All authors have no potential conflicts of interest to declare. This work was performed under Johns Hopkins IRB00176170 with consent waiver.

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Rooper, L.M., McCuiston, A.M., Westra, W.H. et al. SOX10 Immunoexpression in Basaloid Squamous Cell Carcinomas: A Diagnostic Pitfall for Ruling out Salivary Differentiation. Head and Neck Pathol 13, 543–547 (2019).

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  • Basaloid squamous cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • SOX10
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Immunohistochemistry