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Acta Neuropathol. 2001 Nov;102(5):422-5.

Genetic evidence of the neoplastic nature of gemistocytes in astrocytomas.

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Unit of Molecular Pathology, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France.


Gemistocytic astrocytoma is characterized by a predominance of large astrocytes with plump processes and massive accumulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (gemistocytes). This histological variant of low-grade diffuse astrocytoma (WHO grade II) is prone to more rapid progression to anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma than the ordinary fibrillary astrocytoma. The biological basis of this unfavorable prognosis is unclear, since gemistocytes themselves have low proliferative activity, even if present in anaplastic astrocytomas or glioblastomas. This has raised the question of whether gemistocytes are neoplastic cells or dysplastic reactive astrocytes. In this study, gemistocytes and non-gemistocytic neoplastic cells were separated by laser-assisted microdissection from six gemistocytic astrocytomas carrying TP53 mutations. In all cases, identical TP53 mutations were identified in both cell types, indicating that gemistocytes are indeed neoplastic cells. Their lack of proliferative activity may indicate terminal differentiation.

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