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Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Aug;26(8):965-77.

Practical application of molecular genetic testing as an aid to the surgical pathologic diagnosis of sarcomas: a prospective study.

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  • 1Lauren V. Ackerman Laboratory of Surgical Pathology, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University Medical Center, St. Louis, MO, USA.


The strong correlation of specific reciprocal translocations with individual tumor types and the demonstration that polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods can detect translocations in tissue samples have stimulated interest in the role of molecular genetic testing in diagnostic surgical pathology. To evaluate the clinical utility of PCR-based molecular analysis of soft tissue neoplasms in routine surgical pathology, 131 consecutive soft tissue tumors submitted for molecular genetic testing at a tertiary care teaching hospital were prospectively analyzed over a 36-month period. RT-PCR was used to test tumor RNA for fusion transcripts characteristic of malignant round cell tumors (including Ewing sarcoma/primitive neuroectodermal tumor, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, and alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma), spindle cell tumors (including synovial sarcoma and congenital fibrosarcoma), and fatty tumors (myxoid liposarcoma). DNA sequence analysis was used to confirm the identity of all PCR products, and the PCR results were compared with the histopathologic diagnosis. We found that sufficient RNA for RT-PCR-based testing was recovered from 96% of the 131 cases and the percentage of tumors that tested positive for the associated characteristic fusion transcript was in general agreement with those reported in the literature. DNA sequence analysis of PCR products identified both variant transcripts and spurious PCR products, underscoring the value of product confirmation steps when testing formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue. Only in rare cases did testing yield a genetic result that was discordant with the histopathologic diagnosis. We conclude that PCR-based testing is a useful adjunct for the diagnosis of malignant small round cell tumors, spindle cell tumors, and other miscellaneous neoplasms in routine surgical pathology practice.

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