In a review of 32 patients with paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration (PCD), 16 (all of whom were women) had Purkinje cell cytoplasmic antibodies (PCAb) and 16 (8 women) did not. Most patients (15 of 16 seropositive and 12 of 16 seronegative patients) had active cancer at the time of neurologic diagnosis. Gynecologic or breast cancers were found in 14 of 16 seropositive and in 2 of 8 seronegative female patients; lung cancer was diagnosed in 7 of 16 seronegative patients but in no seropositive patient. In seropositive patients, the onset of the syndrome was more often abrupt and abnormalities of affect, mentation, ocular motility, and cerebrospinal fluid IgG index were more common than in seronegative patients. Additional paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes were present in five seronegative patients but in no seropositive patient. Clinical impairment was equivalent in both groups; approximately 75% of patients were confined to a wheelchair or bed at last follow-up. Four of 16 seropositive patients died (4 to 18 months after onset of PCD), and 7 of 16 seronegative patients died (7 to 120 months after onset of PCD). Thus, PCAb seem to be a marker for a clinical subset of female patients with gynecologic or breast cancer. The high frequency of other autoimmune paraneoplastic syndromes in patients with seronegative PCD suggests that PCD in both seropositive and seronegative patients may have a common pathogenic basis that involves an as yet unidentified antineuronal autoimmune mechanism.
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