INSM1 is a Sensitive and Specific Marker of Neuroendocrine Differentiation in Head and Neck Tumors

Lisa M. Rooper, Justin A. Bishop, William H. Westra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The head and neck is the site of a wide and sometimes bewildering array of neuroendocrine (NE) tumors. Although recognition of NE differentiation may be necessary for appropriate tumor classification and treatment, traditional NE markers such as synaptophysin, chromogranin, and CD56 are not always sufficiently sensitive or specific to make this distinction. Insulinoma-associated protein 1 (INSM1) is a novel transcription factor that has recently demonstrated excellent sensitivity and specificity for NE differentiation in various anatomic sites, but has not yet been extensively evaluated in tumors of the head and neck. We performed INSM1 immunohistochemistry on NE tumors (n=97) and non-NE tumors (n=626) across all histologic grades and anatomic subsites of the head and neck. INSM1 was positive in all types of head and neck NE tumors evaluated here (99.0% sensitivity), including middle ear adenoma, pituitary adenoma, paraganglioma, medullary thyroid carcinoma, olfactory neuroblastoma, small cell carcinoma, large cell NE carcinoma, and sinonasal teratocarcinosarcoma. Notably, it was positive in the vast majority of high-grade NE malignancies (95.8% sensitivity). INSM1 also was negative in almost all non-NE tumors (97.6% specificity) with the highest rates of reactivity in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and SWI/SNF related, matrix associated, actin dependent regulator of chromatin, subfamily B, member 1 (SMARCB1)-deficient sinonasal carcinoma. These findings confirm that INSM1 may be used as a standalone first-line marker of NE differentiation for tumors of the head and neck.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-671
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018


  • INSM1
  • head and neck tumors
  • immunohistochemistry
  • neuroendocrine tumors
  • surgical pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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