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Am J Surg Pathol. 1989 Feb;13(2):120-32.

Immunohistochemical spectrum of rhabdomyosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma-like tumors. Expression of cytokeratin and the 68-kD neurofilament protein.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Twenty-five rhabdomyosarcomas (RMSs), including 12 alveolar and 13 embryonal types, were immunohistochemically studied for the presence of different classes of intermediate filament proteins and muscle actins (MAs). For the most part, formaldehyde-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue was used in immunostaining. All RMSs showed desmin and MAs, usually in a major portion of tumor cells. The number of MA-positive cells was sometimes higher than that of desmin-positive cells. Vimentin was present in all tumors studied in frozen sections. Eight of 12 alveolar RMSs showed small number of cytokeratin-positive neoplastic cells. Cytokeratin-positive cells were present less commonly in embryonal RMS (3/13 cases). The 68-kD neurofilament protein was found in frozen sections of two embryonal RMSs. The cytokeratin and neurofilament immunostaining could be reproduced by immunofluorescence technique. In addition, we studied three childhood sarcomas, which showed abundant desmin and MA immunostaining but did not conform to the ultrastructural criteria of RMS. Scattered cytokeratin-positive cells were found in two of these tumors, and neurofilaments were found in the two cases for which frozen sections were available. The results show that typical RMS may demonstrate immunohistological pleomorphism with cytokeratin and neurofilament immunoreactivity suggesting the presence of multidirectional differentiation. In addition, there are tumors that by morphology look like RMS and have muscle cell markers but cannot be verified as RMS by electron microscopy; also, these tumors seem to show immunohistological pleomorphism. The presence of nonmyoid markers in RMS should be considered when making immunohistological diagnosis of soft tissue sarcomas.

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