Liposarcoma: new entities and evolving concepts

Ann Diagn Pathol. 2000 Aug;4(4):252-66. doi: 10.1053/adpa.2000.8133.


Liposarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma and accounts for approximately 20% of all mesenchymal malignancies. In the last decade, the results of several studies have led to the delineation of new variants as well as to the introduction of new concepts, mainly as a result of the fruitful interactions between genetics and pathology. Spindle cell liposarcoma represents an uncommon variant of well-differentiated liposarcoma. It tends to occur in adults and often involves the subcutaneous soft tissue. However, from the observation of a larger number of cases, the anatomic distribution of spindle cell liposarcoma seems to be comparable to that of the other well-differentiated liposarcoma subtypes. Spindle cell liposarcoma tends to recur locally and may dedifferentiate. Morphologically it is composed of a fairly bland neural-like spindle cell proliferation set in a fibrous and/or myxoid background and is associated with an atypical lipomatous component. Great debate has been generated by the introduction of the term atypical lipoma to emphasize the fact that well-differentiated liposarcoma shows risk of local recurrence but no potential for metastasis. In our opinion well-differentiated liposarcoma and atypical lipoma should be considered synonyms that describe lesions identical both morphologically and kayotypically. Dedifferentiated liposarcoma is a distinct type of liposarcoma in which transition from low-grade to high-grade nonlipogenic morphology within a well-differentiated liposarcoma is observed. The transition usually occurs in an abrupt fashion; however, in rare cases it can be more gradual. Recently, it also has been proposed that dedifferentiated liposarcoma should be further classified into low and high grade. Dedifferentiated liposarcoma rarely exhibits heterologous (most often myoid) differentiation. A peculiar "neural-like whorling pattern" of dedifferentiation also has been described recently. Surprisingly, the clinical outcome of dedifferentiated liposarcoma is less aggressive that in other high-grade pleomorphic sarcomas but genetic as well as molecular data exist that may partiallyjustify such a discrepancy. Myxoid and round cell liposarcoma, even if still classified by the World Health Organization as two distinct subtypes, share both clinical and morphologic features. Lesions combining both patterns are very frequent and wide agreement exists in considering round cell liposarcoma as the high-grade counterpart of myxoid liposarcoma. Furthermore, myxoid and round cell liposarcoma share the same characteristic chromosome change. Albeit rare, it has been recently shown that liposarcoma indeed can occur as a primary skin lesion. It often presents clinically as a dome-shaped or polypoid lesion that, histologically, most frequently shows high-grade morphologic features but carries a comparatively good prognosis. Considering currently available data, the most logical classification of liposarcoma is into three main groups: (1) well-differentiated liposarcoma (including adipocytic, sclerosing, inflammatory, spindle-cell, and dedifferentiated variants), characterized by ring or long markers chromosomes derived from the long arm of chromosome 12; (2) myxoid and round cell (poorly differentiated myxoid) liposarcoma, characterized in most cases by a reciprocal translocation t(12;16)(q13;p11); and (3) pleomorphic liposarcoma, characterized by complex karyotypes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Humans
  • Liposarcoma / classification*
  • Liposarcoma / diagnosis*
  • Liposarcoma / genetics
  • Liposarcoma, Myxoid / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis