Standard Article

Molecular Genetics of Rhabdomyosarcoma

  1. Soledad Gallego1,
  2. Jose Sanchez De Toledo1,
  3. Josep Roma2

Published Online: 15 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023883



How to Cite

Gallego, S., De Toledo, J. S. and Roma, J. 2012. Molecular Genetics of Rhabdomyosarcoma. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron Barcelona, Pediatric Oncology Unit and Translational Research in Pediatric Cancer, Spain

  2. 2

    Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron Barcelona, Translational Research in Pediatric Cancer, Spain

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 FEB 2012


Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children and adolescents. There are two main histologic subtypes, embryonal and alveolar, with different clinical behaviour and prognosis. Embryonal RMS is commonly localised with favourable prognosis, whereas alveolar RMS is more frequently metastatic and its prognosis is poor. These clinical differences reflect different molecular genetics. Alveolar RMS has recurrent reciprocal translocations that are absent in embryonal tumours. These translocations, t(2;13)(q35;q14) and t(1;13)(p36;q14), generate the fusion genes PAX3–FOXO1 and PAX7–FOXO1, respectively. The resulting fusion proteins exert effects on differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis, thereby bestowing a survival advantage on RMS cells. Recent advances in the identification of the cell of origin of RMS and a deeper knowledge of deregulated signalling pathways offer an opportunity for novel therapeutic approaches for patients with this tumour.

Key Concepts:

  • Embryonal and alveolar RMS have different molecular and genetic features and different clinical behaviours.

  • Fusion-negative alveolar RMS have expression profiles resembling those of embryonal RMS.

  • The chimeric proteins resulting from the characteristic translocations of alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas exert oncogenic effects.

  • Numerous signalling pathways are deregulated in rhabdomyosarcoma.

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma derives from myogenic progenitor cells that undergo malignant transformation under the effects of a regulator programme that involves p53 and Rb pathways.


  • rhabdomyosarcoma;
  • PAX3–FOXO1;
  • PAX7–FOXO1;
  • alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma;
  • embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma