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Histopathology. 2017 Jul;71(1):125-133. doi: 10.1111/his.13190. Epub 2017 Apr 10.

H3F3A mutation in giant cell tumour of the bone is detected by immunohistochemistry using a monoclonal antibody against the G34W mutated site of the histone H3.3 variant.

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Institute of Pathology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.
Department of Surgery, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.
Department of Radiology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.



Giant cell tumour of the bone (GCTB) is a neoplasm predominantly of long bones characterized by the H3F3A mutation G34W. Conventional diagnosis is challenged by the tumour's giant cell-rich morphology, which overlaps with other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone. Recently, a monoclonal antibody specific for the H3F3A mutation has been generated. Our aim was to test this antibody on a cohort of giant cell-containing lesions.


We used the antibody for analysis of 22 H3F3A-mutated GCTB, including two patients with recurrences; for comparison we analysed a cohort of 36 H3F3A wild-type giant cell-rich lesions of the bone and soft tissue, containing one brown tumour, six aneurysmal bone cysts (ABC), six chondroblastomas, five non-ossifying-fibromas, two fibrous dysplasias, nine tenosynovial giant cell tumours, one giant cell-rich sarcoma and six osteosarcomas. Furthermore, among the 22 mutated cases, we included one GCTB with two recurrences and lung metastases; the patient was treated with the anti-receptor activator of nuclear factor κB (RANK) ligand denosumab. We show that all 22 H3F3A-mutated GCTB display strong nuclear H3.3 G34W staining in the neoplastic component, while the osteoclastic giant cells are negative. 36 H3F3A wild-type lesions are negative. The GCTB treated with denosumab revealed a reduction in the H3.3 G34W-positive tumour cells and a decrease in osteoclastic giant cells accompanied by matrix and osteoid formation.


We conclude that positive H3.3 G34W staining is a specific and sensitive method for detection of H3F3A-mutated GCTB. Denosumab treatment leads to a pathomorphosis of the lesion characterized by matrix and osteoid producing H3.3 G34W-negative stromal cells.


G34W; H3F3A mutation; giant cell tumour of bone

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