Genetics of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans family of tumors: from ring chromosomes to tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment

Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2003 May;37(1):1-19. doi: 10.1002/gcc.10202.


Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DP) is a rare, slow-growing, infiltrating dermal neoplasm of intermediate malignancy, made up of spindle-shaped tumor cells often positive for CD34. The preferred treatment is wide surgical excision with pathologically negative margins. At the cytogenetic level, DP cells are characterized by either supernumerary ring chromosomes, which have been shown by using fluorescence in situ hybridization techniques to be derived from chromosome 22 and to contain low-level amplified sequences from 17q22-qter and 22q10-q13.1, or t(17;22), that are most often unbalanced. Both the rings and linear der(22) contain a specific fusion of COL1A1 with PDGFB. Similar to other tumors, the COL1A1-PDGFB fusion is occasionally cryptic, associated with complex chromosomal rearrangements. Although rings have been mainly observed in adults, translocations have been reported in all pediatric cases. DP is therefore a unique example of a tumor in which (i) the same molecular event occurs either on rings or linear translocation derivatives, (ii) the chromosomal abnormalities display an age-related pattern, and (iii) the presence of the specific fusion gene is associated with the gain of chromosomal segments, probably taking advantage of gene dosage effects. In all DP cases that underwent molecular investigations, the breakpoint localization in PDGFB was found to be remarkably constant, placing exon 2 under the control of the COL1A1 promoter. In contrast, the COL1A1 breakpoint was found to be variably located within the exons of the alpha-helical coding region (exons 6-49). No preferential COL1A1 breakpoint and no correlation between the breakpoint location and the age of the patient or any clinical or histological particularity have been described. The COL1A1-PDGFB fusion is detectable by multiplex RT-PCR with a combination of forward primers designed from a variety of COL1A1 exons and one reverse primer from PDGFB exon 2. Recent studies have determined the molecular identity of "classical" DP, giant cell fibroblastoma, Bednar tumor, adult superficial fibrosarcoma, and the granular cell variant of DP. In approximately 8% of DP cases, the COL1A1-PDGFB fusion is not found, suggesting that genes other than COL1A1 or PDGFB might be involved in a subset of cases. It has been proposed that PDGFB acts as a mitogen in DP cells by autocrine stimulation of the PDGF receptor. It is encouraging that inhibitory effects of the PDGF receptor tyrosine kinase antagonist imatinib mesylate have been demonstrated in vivo; such targeted therapies might be warranted in the near future for treatment of the few DP cases not manageable by surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / diagnosis
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / drug therapy*
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / genetics*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Ring Chromosomes*
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • src-Family Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • src-Family Kinases