The role of genetic testing in soft tissue sarcoma

Histopathology. 2006 Jan;48(1):13-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2005.02285.x.


Soft tissue tumours represent a heterogeneous group of mesenchymal lesions and their classification continues to evolve as a result of incorporating advances in cytogenetic and molecular techniques. In the last decade traditional diagnostic approaches were supplemented with a significant number of reliable molecular diagnostic tools, detecting tumour type-specific genetic alterations. In addition, the successful application of some of these techniques to formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue made it possible to subject a broader range of clinical material to molecular analysis. Thus, molecular genetics has already become an integral part of the work-up in some tumours, such as paediatric small blue round cell tumours, which demonstrate characteristic translocations. Several lines of evidence suggest that sarcomas can be divided into two major genetic groups: (i) sarcomas with specific genetic alterations and usually simple karyotypes, such as reciprocal chromosomal translocations (e.g. FUS-DDIT3 in myxoid liposarcoma) and specific oncogenic mutations (e.g. KIT mutation in gastrointestinal stromal tumours); and (i) sarcomas with non-specific genetic alterations and complex unbalanced karyotypes. Some of these genetic abnormalities, including chromosomal numerical changes, translocations, gene amplifications or large deletions can be apparent at the cytogenetic level (karyotyping, fluorescence in situ hybridization), while others, such as small deletions, insertions or point mutations, require molecular genetic techniques (polymerase chain reaction and sequence analysis). This review focuses on the applicability of genetic testing in the diagnosis and prognosis of soft tissue sarcomas, and gives a realistic appraisal of the ancillary role of molecular techniques, including its advantages and limitations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Karyotyping
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Prognosis
  • Sarcoma / diagnosis*
  • Sarcoma / genetics
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / genetics
  • Translocation, Genetic / genetics