Dedifferentiated chordoma of the thoracic spine with rhabdomyosarcomatous differentiation. Report of a case and review of the literature

Ann Diagn Pathol. 2007 Aug;11(4):262-73. doi: 10.1016/j.anndiagpath.2006.09.002.


A case of spinal thoracic chordoma involving the T9 vertebra in a 70-year-old male patient, destroying the vertebral body and invading the vertebral canal with compression of the spinal cord, is presented. The patient was referred to our neurosurgical unit with a history of an irradiated metastatic adenocarcinoma to the thoracic vertebra, a diagnosis that was rendered 3 years earlier at another hospital on presentation. This misdiagnosis was likely due to the absolute rarity of thoracic vertebral chordomas (2%-3% of all chordomas), the higher frequency of metastatic deposits to the vertebrae from visceral cancers in the elderly, the limited amount of biopsy material available for histologic examination, and the epithelial phenotype of the tumor (keratin/EMA positive). The patient underwent second palliative surgery with subtotal piecemeal removal of the tumor bringing relief of the neurologic symptoms. The bulk of the tumor was represented by a high-grade pleomorphic sarcoma with adjacent areas of atypical chordoma. Small foci of conventional chordoma were also found. The previous histologic slides were also reviewed, which were consistent with the areas of atypical chordoma. Small targeted tissue fragments from areas of (atypical) chordoma and from sarcomatous areas were recovered for electron microscopy. The fine features of chordoma and focal rhabdomyoblastic differentiation were found with the latter retrospectively supported by immunohistochemical detection of striated muscle markers. A final diagnosis of dedifferentiated chordoma with rhabdomyoblastic differentiation was finally established. Rhabdomyoblastic metaplasia is a novelty in dedifferentiated chordoma. The patient died after 5 months. Autopsy was not requested.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Chordoma / chemistry
  • Chordoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Chordoma / pathology*
  • Chordoma / surgery
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Multiple Primary
  • Palliative Care
  • Radiography
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / chemistry
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / pathology*
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / surgery
  • Spinal Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Spine / pathology
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / chemistry
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery


  • Biomarkers, Tumor