The cytopathology of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor

A report of 55 fine-needle aspiration cases




Among sarcomas, a diagnosis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) is often one of exclusion due to the absence of unequivocally characteristic histopathology, a conclusive immunohistochemical profile, or even a unique chromosomal anomaly. Because of this, the fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytopathology of MPNST is extremely challenging. In the current study, the authors review their FNA experience with this neoplasm.


The authors searched their combined departmental cytology files for all lesions signed out as MPNST or suspicious for MPNST, as well as their own surgical pathology files for any cases of MPNST that had corresponding cytology. FNA was performed using standard techniques.


A total of 55 cases of MPNST, all with tissue confirmation, and 1 misdiagnosed example of melanoma were retrieved from 52 patients (M:F ratio of 1.5:1; average age, 46 years), 26 of whom had a history of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF-1). Aspirates were from primary (27 cases), locally recurrent (14 cases), or metastatic (10 cases) MPNST; 4 primary tumor aspirates were of ex vivo specimens. Sites included the extremities (22 cases), trunk/pelvis (22 cases), head and neck (6 cases), and deep-seated masses (6 cases). FNA diagnoses were MPNST (24 patients); consistent with MPNST (5 patients); sarcoma, not otherwise specified (10 patients); atypical (3 patients); spindle cell neoplasm (6 patients); malignant neoplasm (1 patient); and nondiagnostic (3 patients). A definitive diagnosis of either MPNST or consistent with MPNST was issued in 30%, 93%, and 70%, respectively, of primary, locally recurrent, and metastatic lesions.


FNA cytopathology is limited as a diagnostic instrument for the initial diagnosis of MPNST, but is exceedingly accurate and valuable in the recognition of metastatic and locally recurrent MPNST. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol) 2012. © 2012 American Cancer Society.