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TTF-1 and napsin A are useful biomarkers for differentiating primary lung adenocarcinoma from metastatic tumors. Studies have shown, however, that TTF-1 and napsin A also can be expressed in extrapulmonary carcinomas, and that a small fraction of primary lung adenocarcinomas do not co-express these two markers. We attempted to determine whether a tissue-specific transcriptional factor, PAX8, can help determine primary sites of lung carcinomas. Immunohistochemical stains for PAX8, TTF-1 and napsin A were performed on 103 cases of metastatic lung carcinomas from a variety of origins and 120 cases of primary lung adenocarcinomas. Our data demonstrated that all 103 metastatic carcinomas were negative for napsin A, while 14 (13.6%; four thyroid, two endometrium, three colon, one prostate, one salivary adenoid cystic, two renal cell carcinomas, and one ovary) showed weak to strong TTF-1 nuclear staining in 5-60% of the tumor cells. All primary lung adenocarcinomas were negative for PAX8, whereas 46 (44.7%) metastatic carcinomas from the kidney (29/33), ovary (6/8), endometrium (5/5), endocervix (1/1), thyroid (4/5) and urinary tract (1/3) were positive for PAX8. Our data demonstrate that of combined use of PAX8, TTF-1 and napsin A is reliable to separate reliably lung primary from metastatic tumors.