Dedifferentiated Chordoma: Clinicopathologic and Molecular Characteristics With Integrative Analysis

Am J Surg Pathol. 2020 Sep;44(9):1213-1223. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000001501.


Dedifferentiated chordoma is a rare chordoma subtype characterized by a high-grade sarcoma juxtaposed to conventional chordoma. We identified a series of dedifferentiated chordomas, reviewed clinicopathologic features, performed next-generation sequencing in select cases, and analyzed all related English-language publications. Our series included 7 men and 3 women (age 15 to 80 y [median: 54 y]; <1% of >1000 chordomas surveyed). The tumor (2.8 to 24.5 cm [median: 5.8 cm] in size) presented de novo or as recurrence (including postradiotherapy) in sacrum (n=5), skull base (n=2), lumbar spine (n=1), thoracic/mediastinum (n=1), and lung (n=1; as metastasis). Histologically, the dedifferentiated component (3% to 95% [median: 60%]) was pleomorphic-to-fibrosarcomatous, juxtaposed to conventional (n=8) or chondroid (n=2) component. By immunohistochemistry, the conventional/chondroid component consistently expressed cytokeratin and brachyury, whereas the dedifferentiated component showed loss of both. We identified a sacral conventional chordoma with INI1 loss, with one of the lung metastases showing biphasic histology with loss of cytokeratin and brachyury in the dedifferentiated component. Sequencing identified tumor suppressor mutations in 4 tumors, including TP53 mutations in the dedifferentiated component in 3 tumors. Of 7 patients with follow-up, 6 developed metastases; 4 died at 15 to 99 months (median: 24 mo) after dedifferentiated chordoma diagnosis. Collectively, of 87 dedifferentiated chordoma patients described in 1913-2020 (including 10 herein), the median overall survival was 20 months. In summary, dedifferentiated chordoma involves diverse sites and presents de novo, postradiotherapy, or as recurrence/metastasis months-to-years after initial diagnosis. The dedifferentiated component shows loss of brachyury and cytokeratin staining and harbors recurrent TP53 mutations, implicating tumor suppressor dysregulation in chordoma dedifferentiation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor* / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor* / genetics
  • Boston
  • Cell Dedifferentiation*
  • Chordoma / chemistry
  • Chordoma / classification*
  • Chordoma / genetics
  • Chordoma / secondary
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Phenotype
  • SMARCB1 Protein / analysis
  • SMARCB1 Protein / genetics
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • SMARCB1 Protein
  • SMARCB1 protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53