Desmoplastic small round cell tumor is a recently described entity associated with fusion of the EWS and WT1 genes and with expression of a chimeric transcript. To investigate the structure and potential diagnostic utility of the detection of EWS-WT1 chimeric RNA in desmoplastic small round cell tumor, 12 examples of this entity and 49 other tumors that enter in its differential diagnosis were studied by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for the presence of EWS-WT1, EWS-FLI-1, PAX3-FKHR, and PAX7-FKHR chimeric transcripts. EWS-WT1 was detected in 11 of 12 desmoplastic small round cell tumors but not in any other tumor type studied, including 17 Wilms' tumors, 10 Ewing's sarcomas/primitive neuroectodermal tumors, 13 alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas, and 9 embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas. One desmoplastic small round cell tumor was found to have a variant EWS-WT1 chimeric product that included exon 8 of EWS EWS-FLI-1 chimeric RNA was present in all Ewing's sarcoma/primitive neuroectodermal tumor and not identified in any other tumor types, including desmoplastic small round cell tumor. PAX3/PAX7-FKHR chimeras were present in 9 of 13 alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas but not in any other tumors. Detection of chimeric transcripts by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction is a very specific aid in differential diagnosis of developmental tumors and further establishes desmoplastic small round cell tumor as a distinct entity.