Author(s): Graadt van Roggen JF, van Velthuysen ML, Hogendoorn PC
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Abstract Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), initially presumed to be of "true" smooth muscle origin, encompass a heterogeneous, and as yet incompletely understood, group of mesenchymal tumours with respect to their origin, cellular differentiation, and prognosis. Cellular morphology ranges from predominantly spindle shaped to epithelioid in character, whereas differentiation pathways, as determined primarily by immunohistochemistry and ultrastructure, can vary from indeterminate to myoid and/or neural. Recent work has indicated that the interstitial cells of Cajal, a complex cellular network postulated to act as pacemaker cells of the gastrointestinal tract, which exhibit both myoid and neural features, could be candidates for tumour histogenesis. This would provide a plausible and attractive explanation for the variable differentiation pathways identified in the GIST category to date. Nevertheless, the occasional but undisputed location of GISTs outside the gastrointestinal tract (omentum, peritoneum, and retroperitoneum) might mitigate against such an origin, and their histogenesis remains open to debate. The c-kit proto-oncogene, encoding a growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity, has been postulated to play an important role in tumorigenesis because "gain of function" mutations in this gene, localised to chromosome 4q11-21, are being increasingly identified in hereditary and sporadic cases. Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies directed at the c-kit gene product expressed on the cell surface (CD117/c-kit) appear to be increasingly helpful in resolving the histopathological differential diagnosis between GISTs and true gastrointestinal smooth muscle neoplasms, schwannomas, and other far less frequently occurring mesenchymal tumours at this site. Although tumours with a clinically benign course appear to be more common than their malignant counterparts, no specific histological criteria have as yet been identified to enable an unambiguous prediction of biological behaviour. Increasing tumour size and mitotic activity favour aggressive tumour behaviour, whereas the prognostic value of germline and somatic mutations within the c-kit proto-oncogene remains to be elucidated further. It is the aim of this synopsis to highlight the relevant fundamental and diagnostic developments with respect to this complex group of neoplasms.
This article was published in J Clin Pathol
and referenced in Journal of Molecular Imaging & Dynamics