• rhabdomyosarcoma;
  • myogenin;
  • real-time polymerase chain reaction;
  • paraffin-embedded tissue



Identification of the alveolar subtype of rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) is important, because the poor prognosis associated with this subtype necessitates a modified therapeutic regimen. At present, ARMS diagnoses are made on the basis of histologic findings and the extent of myogenin immunopositivity. Nonetheless, the absence of an alveolar pattern in the solid variant, the low degree of differentiation in certain embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas (ERMS), and the increasing use of microbiopsy samples make the diagnosis of ARMS somewhat difficult. Two specific translocations have been found in ARMS, and fusion transcripts can be detected by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of paraffin-embedded tissue (PET).


To assess the value of myogenin staining and molecular testing in the diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, the authors examined 109 rhabdomyosarcoma samples (45 ARMS samples and 64 ERMS samples). Real-time RT-PCR analysis of PET was performed in all 109 rhabdomyosarcomas, and RT-PCR analysis of frozen material was performed in 24 cases.


PAX fusion transcripts were present in 44 cases (39 ARMS and 5 ERMS) and absent in 52 cases (2 ARMS and 50 ERMS). In 13 cases (4 ARMS and 9 ERMS), the results were not interpretable. Results were concordant between paired frozen and fixed tumor samples. All 35 interpretable ERMS samples that contained < 50% myogenin-positive cells failed to yield detectable PAX fusion transcripts. Of the 61 interpretable tumor samples (41 ARMS and 20 ERMS) that contained > 50% myogenin-positive cells, 44 (39 ARMS and 5 ERMS) yielded detectable PAX fusion transcripts.


The current study demonstrates that molecular detection of PAX fusion transcripts via real-time RT-PCR analysis of PET is a sensitive and specific method for the diagnosis of ARMS and that immunohistochemical analysis of myogenin expression can be used to select cases for such molecular testing. Although RT-PCR analysis appears not to possess diagnostic value in tumors with < 50% tumor cell immunopositivity, it is strongly recommended for the diagnosis of tumors containing > 50% myogenin-positive cells. Cancer 2004. © 2004 American Cancer Society.