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Am J Surg Pathol. 1986 Feb;10(2):124-33.

Evidence for neural origin and PAS-positive variants of the malignant small cell tumor of thoracopulmonary region ("Askin tumor").


The differential diagnoses of childhood and adolescent tumors composed of small round cells include a distinctive clinicopathological entity called malignant small cell tumor (MSCT) of the thoracopulmonary region in childhood. In the present study, 15 such tumors that fulfilled the criteria by Askin et al. were examined for features of possible neural differentiation by light and electron microscopy (EM). With hematoxylin-eosin stain (H&E) the tumors were made up of small undifferentiated cells; rosette formation was noticed in four cases. By immunohistochemistry all 15 tumors were positive for neuron/specific enolase (NSE), which is a specific marker for neural elements and their tumors including neuroblastomas. Ten of 15 MSCT had positive PAS staining. Ultrastructurally dense core (neurosecretory) granules and cell processes indicative of neuronal differentiation could be recognized in 10 of 14 tumors. The dense core granules were often atypical. Filamentous cytoskeleton, never observed in Ewing's sarcoma, was often present. Based on the current results, MSCT of the thoracopulmonary region can be considered a peripheral neuroectodermal tumor with the possible origin in intercostal nerves. MSCTs are generally misdiagnosed as Ewing's sarcoma due to their primitive appearance in H&E sections and their periodic acid-Schiff positivity. NSE immunostaining, preferably augmented by electron microscopy, is necessary for their correct diagnosis.

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