Paraneoplastic Pemphigus

Diagnosis

Indications for Testing

  • Blistering disease and presence or suspected presence of malignancy
    • Neoplasm usually precedes skin disease
    • Strong suspicion of paraneoplastic pemphigus in the absence of known cancer should trigger a diagnostic evaluation for malignancy

Laboratory Testing

  • Paraneoplastic pemphigus serum antibody screen 
    • Positive screen – indicates serum antibodies to multiple epithelia (simple, columnar, transitional) and against desmoglein 1, 3; desmoplakin 1, 2; envoplakin; periplakin; BP230 and/or BP180
    • Positive antibody screen without known malignancy – perform aggressive evaluation for malignancy
    • Negative result – perform and/or correlate with perilesional skin biopsy; consider evaluation for other immunobullous disease
      • See Immunobullous Skin Diseases Testing Algorithm
  • Perilesional skin biopsy for cutaneous direct immunofluorescence submitted in Michel’s (or Zeus) medium
    • Staining is usually positive for IgG antibodies deposited on the surface of epidermal and epithelial cells (cell surface antibodies)
    • IgG antibodies to basement membrane zone (BMZ) may also be present
    • Combination of cell surface and BMZ IgG antibody staining – indicates paraneoplastic pemphigus
    • IgA antibodies (cell surface and BMZ) – rarely identified

Differential Diagnosis

Clinical Background

Paraneoplastic pemphigus (paraneoplastic autoimmune multi-organ syndrome) is a severely debilitating blistering disease affecting skin and mucous membranes in patients with malignancy, particularly hematologic malignancies.

Epidemiology

  • Incidence – very rare
  • Age – mean onset ≥60 years
  • Sex – M<F

Risk Factors

Pathophysiology

  • IgG antibodies to epithelial cell surface molecules with suprabasilar acantholysis and basal cell vacuolation; IgG antibodies to basement membrane zone may also be present
  • May have interface inflammatory changes, as in lichen planus
  • May have features of pemphigus vulgaris and erythema multiforme
  • Disease process may involve multiple organs (see Clinical Presentation)

Clinical Presentation

  • Skin lesions – polymorphous skin eruption
    • Flaccid bullae
    • Lichenoid lesions
    • Erythematous maculopapular lesions with dusky centers mimicking erythema multiforme
    • Erythroderma
  • Oral mucosal erosions – characteristically involves vermilion border of lips (may be first symptom)
  • Other organ systems involved
    • Gastrointestinal – esophagitis
    • Respiratory – bronchiolitis obliterans
    • Renal – nephrotic syndrome, glomerular nephritis
  • High mortality rate

Treatment

  • Treat malignancy
  • Supportive care
  • Potential therapies include glucocorticoids, other immunosuppressives, plasmapheresis

Indications for Laboratory Testing

  • Tests generally appear in the order most useful for common clinical situations
  • Click on number for test-specific information in the ARUP Laboratory Test Directory
Test Name and Number Recommended Use Limitations Follow Up
Paraneoplastic Pemphigus Antibody Screen 0092107
Method: Indirect Fluorescent Antibody

Assess patient with possible paraneoplastic pemphigus

If other, more common, types of pemphigus are of diagnostic consideration, order the antibody panel test for pemphigus first or concurrently with this test

If IgA paraneoplastic antibody testing is required, contact ARUP Laboratories

Use along with perilesional skin biopsy for DIF to aid in diagnosis of paraneoplastic pemphigus

Use to follow persistent or recurrent disease activity with antibody titers

See Immunobullous Skin Diseases Testing algorithm

Clinical correlation is necessary because results may overlap with other types of pemphigus and with pemphigoid

Rarely, patients may also have IgA paraneoplastic pemphigus antibodies; if IgA antibodies suspected or test results otherwise unexplained, IgA paraneoplastic pemphigus testing can be performed by request

Use paraneoplastic pemphigus antibody test and/or pemphigus panel, particularly if IgG desmoglein 1 or 3 antibodies are increased, to monitor paraneoplastic pemphigus disease activity

Cutaneous Direct Immunofluorescence, Biopsy 0092572
Method: Direct Immunofluorescence
(Direct Fluorescent Antibody Stain)

Order concurrently with serum antibody testing and fixed tissue histopathology for assessment of patient with pruritic, urticarial, blistering and/or erosive disorders, including possible pemphigoid and pemphigoid variants, pemphigus and pemphigus subtypes, dermatitis herpetiformis, epidermolysis bullous acquisita, porphyria, and pseudoporphyria

Order concurrently with fixed tissue histopathology for assessment of patient with inflammatory, immune-mediated cutaneous disease, including possible lupus and lupus variants, vasculitis, drug reactions, lichen planus and lichenoid reactions

For skin involvement, biopsy perilesional skin

For mucous membrane involvement, biopsy nonlesional mucosa

See Immunobullous Skin Diseases Testing algorithm

May be inaccurate if tissue not taken from correct perilesional location (attached/intact epithelium or epidermis is needed

Tissue must be submitted in Michel’s or Zeus medium; this test cannot be performed on formalin-fixed tissue

Initial concurrent and repeat serum testing with paraneoplastic pemphigus screen, pemphigus panel, and pemphigoid panel is the most sensitive for diagnosis, for determining antibody profiles and following disease activity

Patients with indeterminate results should have repeat DIF biopsy

Patients with changing clinical features should have repeat DIF biopsy because antibody profiles may change over time

Epithelial Skin Antibody 0090299
Method: Indirect Immunofluorescence
(Indirect Fluorescent Antibody)

General screen for immunobullous diseases

Test includes IgG and IgA BMZ antibodies (pemphigoid, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, linear IgA disease) and IgG and IgA cell surface antibodies (IgG and IgA pemphigus subtypes)

Consider ordering concurrently with IgG bullous pemphigoid (BP180 & 230) antigens for suspected pemphigoid and/or IgG desmoglein 1 and 3 antibodies for suspected pemphigus

For more sensitive and specific testing for pemphigoid or pemphigus, refer to antibody panels for pemphigus or pemphigoid

See Immunobullous Skin Diseases Testing algorithm

Does not include testing for antibodies to target pemphigoid antigens, BP180 and BP230, or to target pemphigus antigens desmoglein 1 and 3 which may be more sensitive diagnostic markers in some cases (levels correlate with disease activity)

Although helpful in screening for immunobullous disease, test is not as sensitive as combination of pemphigus and pemphigoid panels

Use epithelial skin antibody test or both pemphigoid and pemphigus panels to follow patients with changing clinical features because antibody profiles may change over time

Additional Tests Available
 
Click the plus sign to expand the table of additional tests.
Test Name and NumberComments
Pemphigus Antibody Panel - Epithelial Cell Surface Antibodies and Desmoglein 1 and Desmoglein 3 Antibodies, IgG 0090650
Method: Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay/Indirect Fluorescent Antibody

Preferred panel for initial assessment and disease monitoring in IgG-variant pemphigus

Panel components include antibody testing for IgG epithelial cell surface and IgG desmoglein 1 and 3; to order individual component tests, refer to epithelial skin antibody and/or desmoglein 1 and 3 antibodies in pemphigus, IgG

To screen for pemphigus along with other possible immunobullous diseases, order concurrently with antibody panel test for pemphigoid, IgG collagen type VII antibody, AND perilesional skin biopsy for DIF

Concurrent perilesional skin biopsy for DIF is important for diagnosis because of increased sensitivity (85-100% of pemphigus, pemphigoid, linear IgA disease, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, and dermatitis herpetiformis cases are positive)

See Immunobullous Skin Diseases Testing algorithm

Pemphigoid Antibody Panel - Epithelial Basement Membrane Zone Antibodies, IgG and IgA, BP180 and BP230 Antibodies, IgG 0092001
Method: Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay/Indirect Fluorescent Antibody

Preferred antibody panel for initial diagnostic assessment and disease monitoring in pemphigoid, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, and linear IgA bullous dermatosis

Panel components include IgG and IgA epithelial BMZ antibodies and IgG bullous pemphigoid BP180 & 230 antigens

To order individual component tests, refer to antibody testing for IgG BMZ, IgA BMZ, and/or IgG bullous pemphigoid BP 180 & 230 antigens

To screen for pemphigoid along with other possible immunobullous diseases, order concurrently with the pemphigus antibody panel  IgG collagen type VII antibody, AND perilesional skin biopsy for DIF

Concurrent perilesional skin biopsy for DIF is important for diagnosis because of increased sensitivity (85-100% of pemphigus, pemphigoid, linear IgA disease, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, and dermatitis herpetiformis cases are positive)