Update in salivary gland cytopathology: Recent molecular advances and diagnostic applications

Semin Diagn Pathol. 2015 Jul;32(4):264-74. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2014.12.008. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


Salivary gland tumors (SGT) are notorious for their extraordinary diversity and for the morphological overlap that exists between many of these entities. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) has a well-established role in the evaluation of patients with a salivary gland lesion, helping to guide clinical management. However, salivary gland FNAB has several limitations and does not allow for a specific diagnosis in some cases. For these reasons, salivary gland FNAB is considered one of the most challenging areas in cytopathology. Over the last decade, new salivary gland entities have been recognized, enlarging SGT diversity and complexity even more. In addition, a subset of SGT, including common entities such as pleomorphic adenoma and uncommon new entities such as mammary analog secretory carcinoma, have been characterized cytogenetically by the presence of specific translocations. The molecular consequences of these translocations and their potential prognostic and therapeutic values are not yet well characterized. However, these translocations and their resulting fusion oncogenes and oncoproteins can be used as diagnostic clues in salivary gland FNAB material in order to overcome the limitations of cytomorphological evaluation alone. In this review, we focus on SGTs currently known to harbor translocations and fusion genes, including uncommon and recently recognized entities, and discuss their potential application to salivary gland FNAB.

Keywords: CRTC1; ETV6; Fine-needle aspiration; MYB; PLAG1; Salivary gland.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Gene Fusion
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques*
  • Phenotype
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / classification
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Salivary Glands / chemistry*
  • Salivary Glands / pathology
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Biomarkers, Tumor