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Mod Pathol. 2014 Feb;27(2):184-93. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2013.128. Epub 2013 Jul 26.

Growth-associated protein 43 in differentiating peripheral nerve sheath tumors from other non-neural spindle cell neoplasms.

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Division of Anatomic and Molecular Pathology, Department of Pathology and Immunology and the Lauren V Ackerman Laboratory of Surgical Pathology, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University Medical Center, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO, USA.


The malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor is a relatively uncommon type of soft tissue sarcoma arising from a peripheral nerve or extraneural soft tissues and showing nerve sheath differentiation. The diagnosis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor is one of the most challenging tasks in surgical pathology because of its uncommon type (5-10% soft tissue sarcomas), morphologic resemblance to other spindle cell neoplasms and lack of sensitive and specific immunohistochemical markers. The pathologic diagnosis is more straightforward in the clinical setting of neurofibromatosis-1, but problems are mainly centered on the non-neurofibromatosis-1 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. To date, S100 protein is the most widely applied marker in the case of a suspected malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, yet its suboptimal sensitivity and its expression in other spindle cell neoplasms, including spindle cell melanoma, clear-cell sarcoma, leiomyosarcoma and monophasic synovial sarcoma, add to the diagnostic conundrum. Growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43), a membrane-associated phosphoprotein expressed in neuronal growth cones and Schwann cell precursors during neural development and axonal regeneration, was applied to a set of nerve sheath and non-nerve sheath spindle cell neoplasms. The findings in this study indicate that GAP43 is expressed in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (n=18/21; 86%) and demonstrates a sensitivity superior to S100 protein (n=13/21; 62%). GAP43 is also positive in neurofibromas (n=17/18; 94%), schwannomas (n=11/12; 92%) and desmoplastic melanomas (n=7/10; 70%). In contrast, it is negative in the non-desmoplastic spindle cell melanomas (n=20/22; 91%). Of the other non-neural soft tissue sarcomas, GAP43 is non-reactive in most leiomyosarcomas (n=14/16; 88%) and clear-cell sarcomas (n=8/8), and only focally positive in monophasic synovial sarcomas (n=3/7; 43%). GAP43 is seemingly a highly sensitive marker for peripheral nerve sheath tumors and may serve as a useful diagnostic adjunct in the diagnosis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor from other spindle cell neoplasms, including spindle cell melanoma.

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