Pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma in children: Four cases in the pediatric age group

Mary A. Furlong, Julie C. Fanburg-Smith

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22 Scopus citations


Pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma is considered rare and controversial, especially in children. Although pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma has been observed in children, its sparcity has taken it out of current childhood rhabdomyosarcoma classifications. We report four pediatric cases of pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma, review morphologic, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural features, and discuss the rare need to include this category in children. The Soft Tissue Registry of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was searched for cases coded as "pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma" from 1970 to the present. Only cases in patients less than 21 years old were included. Clinical data, morphology, and immunohistochemical stains were reviewed and follow-up was obtained. Electron microscopy was performed on two cases. Molecular analysis by polymerase chain reaction was performed on one case with available material. Of four patients included, there were three boys and one girl. Patient ages ranged from 9 months to 10 years (median, 4.5 years). Tumors were located on the chest wall (n = 2) and one each on the upper and lower extremities. Tumor size ranged from 4.0 to 10.0 cm. (median, 7 cm). Grossly, the tumors were lobulated and circumscribed. Microscopically, architectural patterns varied from solid to fascicular or storiform. All tumors had large, often multinucleated, polygonal, spindled or strap-like rhabdomyoblasts with abundant eosinophilic cytoplasm. Nuclear characteristics ranged from hyperchromatic to vesicular. Most tumor cells had large prominent nucleoli. Background rhabdomyoblasts varied from spindled to polygonal. No tumors displayed areas typical of embryonal or alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. All tumors exhibited atypical mitotic figures. Immunohistochemistry revealed that the tumors were positive for the following markers: desmin (3/4), myoglobin (4/4), myoD1 (3/3), myf4 (3/3), and MSA (4/4). The two cases studied by electron microscopy both showed evidence for skeletal muscle differentiation. One case showed no evidence for a t(2;13) or t(1;13) translocation. Two patients were alive with no evidence of disease at 12 and 25 years. One patient was dead of disease at 9 years. Pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma is rare but exists in children. The diagnosis should be considered in pleomorphic sarcomas exhibiting skeletal muscle differentiation, which are otherwise devoid of typical areas or chromosomal changes of embryonal or alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-206
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Diagnostic Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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