Patients with hypergastrinemia secondary to achlorhydria have an increased risk of developing ECL cell carcinoids and gastric adenocarcinomas. Hypergastrinemia is central in the pathogenesis of ECL cell carcinoids, but the link between gastrin and gastric carcinomas is controversial. During neoplastic transformation ECL cells may, however, lose many of their neuroendocrine characteristics, making them difficult to recognise as neuroendocrine with conventional immunohistochemical techniques. Neuroendocrine differentiation was therefore examined in eight gastric adenocarcinomas found in seven patients with severe hypergastrinemia and/or pernicious anemia using a monoclonal antibody towards chromogranin A and immunohistochemistry without and with a sensitive signal amplification technique. The Sevier-Munger method was used as a more specific marker of ECL cells. Seven of the carcinomas contained scattered neuroendocrine tumour cells. When using signal amplification, an increase in the number of immunoreactive neoplastic cells was seen. In many tumours, clusters or confluent sheets of such cells were disclosed, suggesting a neuroendocrine and ECL cell origin. These tumours may therefore be ECL cell carcinomas and hypergastrinemia may thus be involved in the tumourigenesis.
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