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Swiss Med Wkly. 2018 Dec 2;148:w14667. doi: 10.4414/smw.2018.14667. eCollection 2018 Nov 19.

Synovial sarcoma: when epigenetic changes dictate tumour development.

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Experimental Pathology Service, Institute of Pathology, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


Synovial sarcoma is a highly aggressive soft tissue malignancy that often affects adolescents and young adults. It is associated with a unique chromosomal translocation that results in the formation and expression of the fusion gene SS18-SSX, which underlies its pathogenesis. Although SS18-SSX provides a potentially unique therapeutic target, all attempts to neutralise it have been unsuccessful thus far. When complete surgical removal of the tumour fails, therapy is limited to largely ineffective cytotoxic drug regimens. Nevertheless, recent discoveries about the mechanisms of SS18-SSX protein function have provided insight into potential alternative therapeutic strategies. SS18-SSX displays oncogenic activity through protein-protein interactions and participation in chromatin remodelling complexes. This review summarises our current understanding of the function of SS18-SSX and the mechanisms by which it alters the epigenetic landscape of permissive cells to induce transformation and the subsequent development of synovial sarcoma.

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