Divergent differentiation in malignant soft tissue neoplasms: the paradigm of liposarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor

Int J Surg Pathol. 2005 Jan;13(1):19-28. doi: 10.1177/106689690501300103.


In tumors clonality does not always translate into morphologic uniformity. While most sarcomas exhibit only one line of histologic differentiation, a minority may display a strikingly diverse phenotype in addition to the main lineage. This phenomenon not only presents a diagnostic problem but also raises questions about the commitment of tumor cells toward a specific phenotype. Among sarcomas, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) and dedifferentiated liposarcoma are two entities in which divergent differentiation is a relatively frequent event. Diagnostically it is crucial to recognize the "primary" sarcoma in such tumors correctly and distinguish it from the "secondary" divergent elements. The presence of the latter could be the first morphologic clue to a specific sarcoma type. Even though it may be difficult to explain the pathogenesis of divergent differentiation, divergence still illustrates that the phenotype of a tumor cell is not set in stone but can be modulated or switched by a number of factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Liposarcoma / pathology*
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology*