Inflammatory malignant fibrous histiocytoma (inflammatory MFH) is a very rare tumour that occurs most often in the retroperitoneum. So far, it has been considered to be a special subtype of MFH. As it is now widely accepted that most retroperitoneal pleomorphic MFHs are dedifferentiated liposarcomas, the present study compared histological features, genomic profile (CGH analysis), and MDM2 and CDK4 status (immunohistochemistry, FISH, and quantitative PCR) in inflammatory MFHs from 12 patients and dedifferentiated liposarcomas that had an inflammatory MFH component from eight patients. Metaphase cytogenetic and FISH analyses were also performed on one inflammatory MFH. Histological review showed areas of well-differentiated liposarcoma in nine inflammatory MFHs. CGH analysis showed 12q13–15 amplification or gain in six of seven inflammatory MFHs and in seven of seven dedifferentiated liposarcomas. Immunohistochemistry showed positivity of tumour cells for MDM2 in every tumour in both groups and for CDK4 in ten and seven inflammatory MFHs and dedifferentiated liposarcomas, respectively. Metaphase cytogenetic and FISH analysis performed on one inflammatory MFH showed the presence of a supernumerary large marker chromosome and ring chromosome with high-level amplification of both MDM2 and CDK4 genes. FISH analysis on paraffin wax-embedded sections showed amplifications of MDM2 and CDK4 in seven of seven inflammatory MFHs and in seven of seven dedifferentiated liposarcomas. Quantitative PCR showed amplification of MDM2 in six and of CDK4 in seven of nine inflammatory MFHs. In conclusion, this study strongly suggests that most so-called inflammatory MFHs are dedifferentiated liposarcomas. Copyright © 2004 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.