Article Abstract

Differential diagnosis of gastrointestinal stromal tumor by histopathology and immunohistochemistry

Authors: Seiichi Hirota


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most common mesenchymal tumors in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. GISTs account for approximately 80% of the clinically relevant GI mesenchymal tumors. Although most GISTs show spindle cell morphology, 10–15% of GISTs show pure epithelioid configuration. Therefore, not only spindle cell tumors but also epithelioid cell ones developing in the GI tract are subject to the differential diagnoses of GISTs. GISTs are basically positive for KIT, a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) encoded by protooncogene c-kit, by immunohistochemistry, but approximately 5% of GISTs are only weakly or barely positive for KIT. Since almost all spindle cell type GISTs are strongly and diffusely positive for KIT regardless of different genetic subtypes, diagnosis of the spindle cell type GISTs is not difficult. On the other hand, epithelioid cell type GISTs show different staining patterns of KIT in different genetic backgrounds. Approximately half of the epithelioid cell type GISTs with platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA) gene mutation might show weak or undetectable staining of KIT. On the other hand, almost all GISTs are negative for desmin, which is a positive marker for mature smooth muscle cells, and S100 protein, which is a Schwann cell marker. Smooth muscle tumors such as leiomyomas and leiomyosarcomas, which usually show the spindle cell morphology, consist of approximately 10% of the clinically relevant GI mesenchymal tumors and are almost positive for desmin and negative for KIT and S100 protein. Schwannomas which nearly always show the spindle cell pattern, comprise up to 5% of the GI mesenchymal tumors, and almost all of them are positive for S100 protein and negative for KIT and desmin. Thus, most GI mesenchymal tumors are differentially diagnosed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) of KIT, desmin and S100 protein. However, mesenchymal tumors such as desmoids, solitary fibrous tumors (SFTs), inflammatory myofibroblastic tumors (IMTs), perivascular epithelioid cell tumors (PEComas), inflammatory fibroid polyps (IFPs), rarely develop in the GI tract, and have to be correctly diagnosed through detection of specific immunohistochemical markers and/or unique genetic aberrations.