Clear cell sarcoma of the gastrointestinal tract and malignant gastrointestinal neuroectodermal tumour: distinct or related entities? A review

Pathology. 2018 Aug;50(5):490-498. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2018.05.001. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


Clear cell sarcoma is an uncommon sarcoma which rarely occurs as a primary tumour in the gastrointestinal tract (CCS-GIT). It shares common molecular genetic abnormalities with the more recently described entity, malignant gastrointestinal neuroectodermal tumour (GNET) but is distinguished by its morphological and immunohistochemical findings. The exact nosological relationship between these tumours continues to be debated. In this review, we present two cases of these rare neoplasms from our files and perform a statistical comparison of all published cases to determine if significant differences exist in their clinicopathological features and biological behaviour. Thirteen cases of CCS-GIT and 58 of GNET were included. CCS-GIT occurred more commonly in males (84.6% vs 46.6%, p = 0.01) and in an older age group (median 57 vs 33 years, p < 0.01). There was no significant difference in their location in the gastrointestinal tract, median tumour size and proportion of cases with an EWSR1-ATF1 vs EWSR1-CREB1 fusion. Median survival for CCS-GIT was 13.5 months and for GNET, 9.5 months (p = 0.78). There was no significant difference in the Kaplan-Meier survival curves for either time to first metastasis (p = 0.88) or overall survival (p = 0.18), including after controlling for tumour size using regression models. Our analysis confirms that aside from morphological variations between these tumours, they also exhibit epidemiological and clinical differences. Despite the prevalent perception that GNET is associated with a more aggressive clinical course, our findings indicate that there is no significant difference in their biological behaviour, although both clearly share a bleak prognosis. Further experience is awaited to determine optimal treatment strategies and whether CCS-GIT and GNET would differ in their response to various therapies.

Keywords: ATF1; CREB1; Clear cell sarcoma; EWSR1; clear cell sarcoma of gastrointestinal tract; clear cell sarcoma-like tumour of gastrointestinal tract; gastrointestinal neuroectodermal tumour.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Calmodulin-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors / genetics*
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors / pathology
  • Sarcoma, Clear Cell / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Calmodulin-Binding Proteins