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BMC Cancer. 2018 Apr 2;18(1):358. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4291-z.

The identification of H3F3A mutation in giant cell tumour of the clivus and the histological diagnostic algorithm of other clival lesions permit the differential diagnosis in this location.

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Institute of Genetics and Biophysics "Adriano Buzzati-Traverso", National Research Council of Italy, Naples, Italy.
Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF), University of Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli", Caserta, Italy.
Department of Neurosurgery, Umberto I General Hospital, Ancona, Italy.
IRCCS INM Neuromed, Pozzilli, Italy.
Institute of Genetics and Biophysics "Adriano Buzzati-Traverso", National Research Council of Italy, Naples, Italy.



Giant Cell Tumour of Bone (GCT) is a locally aggressive primary bone tumour that usually occurs at the epiphyses of the long bones of the appendicular skeleton with a tendency to recurrence. Recurrent somatic H3F3A mutations have been described in 92% of GCT cases. GCTs involving the Clivus are extremely rare lesions and less than 15 cases are described in the literature. They represent a surgery challenge and are easily misdiagnosed. Our aim was to reveal if the genetic bases underlying Clival GCTs were the same of GCTs of long bones to improve the diagnosis and treatment.


The targeted somatic sequencing of GCT-related genes (H3F3A, H3F3B, IDH1, IDH2 and ZNF687) was performed on Clival GCT biopsies of two different cases. Histological analyses on the same tissues were used to detect the neoplastic population and its expression profile.


Sanger sequencing revealed that both patients were positive for the p.Gly34Trp mutation in the H3F3A gene. Immunofluorescence assay using monoclonal antibody, specifically detecting the mutant H3.3, highlighted that the mutation only involved the mononuclear cell population and not the multinucleated giant cells. Moreover, immunohistochemistry assay showed that RANKL was highly expressed by the stromal cells within Clival GCT, mimicking what happens in GCT of the long bones. In addition, systematic literature review allowed us to generate a histology-based diagnostic algorithm of the most common clival lesions.


We conclude that the Clival GCT is genetically defined by somatic mutation in the H3F3A gene, linking it to the GCT of long bones. The similarity with GCTs of long bones let us to hypothesize the utility of Denosumab therapy (already effective for GCTs) in these surgically challenging cases. Moreover, H3F3A genetic screening can be combined to the histological analysis to differentiate GCTs from morphologically similar giant cell-rich sarcomas, while the histological diagnostic algorithm could help the differential diagnosis of other clival lesions.


Clivus; Diagnostic algorithm; Differential diagnosis; Giant cell tumour; H3F3A gene

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