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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2003 Feb;20(1):25-45.

Electron microscopy and other ancillary techniques in the diagnosis of small round cell tumors.

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Department of Pathology, Medical School and Hospital Clinico, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


The current study disusses a new approach to the group of small round cell tumors (SRCTs) independently of their primary anatomical location. We perform this analysis supported mainly by morphological means and particularly with the help of immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy; the last of which continues to play a decisive role in their differential diagnosis. The microscopical similarity of many of these tumors often makes the diagnosis in routine histology extremely difficult, due to the varying degree of heterogeneity present, and may have important therapeutic and prognostic implications. Thus a correct final diagnosis is mandatory for the clinic. Within the group of tumors that express a dominant or occasional small round cell pattern "SRCT" (neoplasms of the Central Nervous System excluded) are included: Ewing's sarcoma and peripheral neuroectodermal tumor (Es/pPNET) comprising its varieties, neuroblastoma, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, rhabdomyosarcoma, alveolar, solid and embryonal, small cell osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, myxoid and mesenchymal, round cell and myxoid liposarcoma, synovial sarcoma (monophasic undiffentiated), primitive malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (malignant small cell schwannoma), malignant non-Hogdkin lymphoma, Merkel cell tumor of the skin (small cell carcinoma including neuroendocrine carcinoma). This study discusses in each case not only the histology, supported by immunohistochemistry, but also the main ultrastructural characteristics. We are conscious that in some cases further cytogenetic or molecular biology support may be necessary, when considering the limits of morphology today. Thus, short references on molecular genetics, complementing the structural findings, are given.

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