Sclerosing rhabdomyosarcoma in adults: Report of four cases of a hyalinizing, matrix-rich variant of rhabdomyosarcoma that may be confused with osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, or angiosarcoma

Andrew L. Folpe, Jesse K. McKenney, Julia A. Bridge, Sharon W. Weiss

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135 Scopus citations


Rhabdomyosarcomas (RMSs) are classified into embryonal (ERMS), alveolar (ARMS), and pleomorphic (PRMS) subtypes. ERMS, including botryoid variants, typically occurs in young children, ARMS typically occurs in older children and young adults, and PRMS occurs in older adults. Although ARMSs show thin fibrous bands separating nests of cells, abundant extracellular matrix production is rare in RMS. In the course of reviewing hyalinizing sarcomas we discovered a distinctive RMS in adults that closely mimicked osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma because of the extensive matrix production. Four RMSs with hyalinized matrix were retrieved from our files. These cases were evaluated with respect to patient age and sex, tumor site and size, growth pattern, nuclear grade, cellularity, mitotic figures/20 high power fields, vascular invasion, necrosis, the presence of rhabdomyoblasts, multinucleated cells, and alveolar growth pattern. Immunohistochemistry for desmin, myogenin, MyoD1, actin, cytokeratin, S-100 protein, collagen II, and CD99 was performed. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for the ARMS-associated PAX3/FKHR and PAX7/PKHF was also performed on three cases. The cases involved the forearm, hand, orbit, and nasopharynx of a 40-year-old woman, a 50-year-old man, an 18-year-old man, and a 21-year-old man, respectively. The tumors ranged from 3.7 to 8 cm and consisted of lobules and infiltrating cords of small round malignant cells embedded in a densely hyalinized matrix having both a chondroid and osteoid-like appearance. No definite lacunae or matrix calcification was present. An alveolar pattern was only present focally, and tumor giant cells were not present. One case had a single focus of rhabdomyoblastic differentiation with strap cells. Mitotic activity was >20 mitotic figures/20 high power fields in three of four cases. Immunohistochemically, one case strongly expressed desmin, whereas three cases expressed it focally, with a dot-like pattern. Myogenin was only focally positive, but MyoD1 was present in nearly every cell of each case. Two cases expressed actin and one expressed CD99. No case expressed cytokeratin, S-100 protein, or collagen II. Only one case contained adequate RNA for reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and this case was negative for the ARMS-associated gene fusions. Follow-up showed one patient to be dead of metastatic disease at 60 months despite intensive therapy, another patient to be disease free at 26 months, and the third patient to be disease free at 5 months. The fourth case is recent. These cases are a distinctive-appearing rhabdomyosarcoma easily mistaken for variants of chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, or even sclerosing epithelioid fibrosarcoma because of their hyalinizing appearance compounded by their typically focal and dot-like desmin expression. These four cases are essentially identical to the three unusual RMSs recently reported by Mentzel and Katenkamp as "sclerosing, pseudovascular rhabdomyosarcoma in adults." Although the focal alveolar architecture and the primitive cytologic appearance of these hyalinizing RMS suggest a relationship with ARMS, the presence of abundant strap cells in one case, the predominant expression of MyoD1 rather than myogenin, and the absence of ARMS-associated fusions genes point more strongly toward a variant of ERMS. However, the late adult age in two cases is unusual for both EMRS and ARMS, suggesting that sclerosing RMS may prove to be a distinct subtype of RMS. Study of additional cases will be necessary to more fully elucidate its place among RMS and its prognostic significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1183
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Angiosarcoma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Fusion genes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • MyoD1
  • Myogenin
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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