Rhabdomyoblastic Differentiation in Head and Neck Malignancies Other Than Rhabdomyosarcoma

Head Neck Pathol. 2015 Dec;9(4):507-18. doi: 10.1007/s12105-015-0624-2. Epub 2015 Mar 11.


Rhabdomyosarcoma is a relatively common soft tissue sarcoma that frequently affects children and adolescents and may involve the head and neck. Rhabdomyosarcoma is defined by skeletal muscle differentiation which can be suggested by routine histology and confirmed by immunohistochemistry for the skeletal muscle-specific markers myogenin or myoD1. At the same time, it must be remembered that when it comes to head and neck malignancies, skeletal muscle differentiation is not limited to rhabdomyosarcoma. A lack of awareness of this phenomenon could lead to misdiagnosis and, subsequently, inappropriate therapeutic interventions. This review focuses on malignant neoplasms of the head and neck other than rhabdomyosarcoma that may exhibit rhabdomyoblastic differentiation, with an emphasis on strategies to resolve the diagnostic dilemmas these tumors may present. Axiomatically, no primary central nervous system tumors will be discussed.

Keywords: Head and neck malignancies; MyoD1; Myogenin; Rhabdomyoblastic differentiation; Rhabdomyosarcoma; Skeletal muscle differentiation; Soft tissue sarcomas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Muscle Tissue / pathology*
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / pathology