Desmoplastic small round cell tumor: a clinicopathologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular study of 32 tumors

Am J Surg Pathol. 2002 Jul;26(7):823-35. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200207000-00001.


Desmoplastic small round cell tumor is a rare, aggressive neoplasm that mainly affects young male patients and is characterized by a reciprocal translocation t(11;22)(p13;q12) associated with the EWS-WT1 gene fusion transcript. Clinical, histopathologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular genetics features were reviewed for 32 tumors. There were 29 male and three female patients, with ages from 6 to 54 years (mean, 25 years). The main clinical signs and symptoms included abdominal pain (eight patients), weight loss (five patients), and presence of umbilical hernia (four patients). Two tumors primarily involved the ethmoid sinus and the soft tissues of the scalp; the other tumors (mean size, 10 cm) involved the abdominal cavity (88%). One patient presented initially with an axillary lymph node metastasis. Generally, all tumors showed the typical histologic findings of variably sized clusters of small, round, or spindled cells lying in a desmoplastic stroma. The neoplastic cells in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections were positive for desmin (dot pattern) (81% of the cases), WT1 (91%), keratin (87%), neuron-specific enolase (84%), CD99 (23%), and actin (3%). The EWS-WT1 gene fusion transcript was detected in 29 of 30 tumors. One tumor with typical clinicopathologic and immunohistochemical features did not show the gene fusion. Follow-up for 27 patients showed that 19 patients (70%) died of uncontrolled, local, or widespread metastatic disease 3-46 months (mean, 20 months) after diagnosis, and eight patients were alive with known evidence of disease. Occasionally, desmoplastic small round cell tumor lacks the classic clinical, histologic, and immunohistochemical features. This study emphasizes the utility of analysis of the EWS-WT1 gene fusion transcript, which was performed on paraffin-embedded tissues, to confirm the diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Abdominal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Abdominal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology*
  • Child
  • Desmin / analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / analysis
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / analysis
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Desmin
  • EWS1-WT1 fusion protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Keratins
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase