Bone & Soft Tissue Pathology
Case 1 -
Myoepithelial Carcinoma of Soft Tissue with Heterologous Chondrosarcomatous Differentiation
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Click on each slide thumbnail image for an enlarged view
A 42 year-old male presented with a painless mass in the left calf. MRI revealed a 9 cm nodular
enhancing mass within the soleus muscle. Following incisional biopsy, the tumor was resected.
Case 1 - Figure 1 - The tumor shows a multinodular growth pattern and variably prominent stroma.
Case 1 - Figure 2 - Small foci of the tumor are composed of cytologically low grade cells set in abundant chondromyxoid stroma.
Case 1 - Figure 3 - In other areas, cytologically atypical epithelioid cells grow in cords.
Case 1 - Figure 4 - Epithelioid tumor cells within a variably prominent chondroid stroma.
Case 1 - Figure 5 - Sheets of cytologically malignant epithelioid cells are punctuated by foci of cartilaginous differentiation.
Case 1 - Figure 6 - In some areas, the cartilage shows relatively bland cytomorphology.
Case 1 - Figure 9 - Spindle cells showing scattered pleomorphism in a hyalinized collagenous stroma.
Case 1 - Figure 10 - Sheets of high grade malignant epithelioid cells with abundant amphophilic cytoplasm.
The tumor cells were positive for keratins CAM5.2 and AE1/AE3, EMA, S-100 protein, smooth muscle
actin, and calponin, and were negative for GFAP and desmin.
Myoepithelial carcinoma of soft tissue with heterologous chondrosarcomatous differentiation
("malignant mixed tumor")
Myoepithelial tumors were only recognized to arise primarily in soft tissue within the past
Most such tumors are pure myoepitheliomas, whereas mixed tumors (also showing
ductal/epithelial differentiation) represent a small subset of these lesions.  This is in
stark contrast to myoepithelial tumors of salivary glands, the vast majority of which are mixed tumors
("pleomorphic adenomas"). Most soft tissue myoepitheliomas are benign, although malignant variants
(myoepithelial carcinoma) also occur. Criteria for malignancy have only very recently been established
(see below). 
Clinically, soft tissue myoepitheliomas show no gender predilection and occur over a wide age range
(including in children) with a peak incidence in the third to fifth decades. The extremities are most
often affected (lower limb > upper limb), although myoepitheliomas also occur in the trunk and head
and neck. The most common presentation is a painless mass in the subcutis or deep somatic soft tissue.
The median tumor size is 3.5 cm; occasional tumors are large (>10 cm).
Morphologically, similar to their salivary gland counterparts,  soft tissue
myoepitheliomas show considerable heterogeneity, in terms of cytomorphology, architecture, and stromal
characteristics.  Most soft tissue myoepitheliomas are lobulated or multinodular, and a
reticular growth pattern is the most common architecture with intersecting cords of cells set in a
prominent chondromyxoid or hyalinized matrix. Myoepitheliomas often show mixed architectural patterns,
with areas of reticular growth merging with solid sheets or nests of tumor cells. Tumor cells may be
epithelioid, spindled, plasmacytoid (hyaline), or clear; many myoepitheliomas contain an admixture of
cell types. Pure spindle cell myoepitheliomas (lacking a stromal component) are an uncommon variant.
Ductal differentiation is seen in 15% of soft tissue myoepitheliomas ("mixed tumors"). Cartilaginous
and/or osseous metaplasia is observed with a similar frequency as ductal differentiation. Occasional
myoepitheliomas show features of so-called "parachordoma" (large epithelioid cells with eosinophilic,
vacuolated cytoplasm and hyalinized stroma); given their overlapping histologic and immunophenotypic
features, "parachordoma" likely falls within the spectrum of soft tissue myoepithelioma.
By immunohistochemistry, virtually all myoepithelial tumors of soft tissue are positive for keratins
and S-100 protein, two-thirds express EMA, and 50% are immunoreactive for GFAP.  In terms of
myogenic markers, calponin is the most sensitive, staining nearly all myoepitheliomas, whereas
immunoreactivity for SMA is seen in only one-third, and expression of desmin is uncommon. 
Given their lack of specificity, myogenic markers are generally not particularly useful for diagnosing
soft tissue myoepithelioma. The "myoepithelial" markers p63 and CK14 are detected in a minority of soft
tissue myoepitheliomas, but may be helpful in some cases.
Analogous to cutaneous mixed tumors ("chondroid syringomas"), "pure" myoepitheliomas may also arise
primarily in the dermis.
Some cutaneous myoepitheliomas resemble their soft tissue or
salivary gland counterparts, but the majority of cutaneous lesions are composed of histiocytoid or
spindled cells showing a distinctive syncytial growth pattern with abundant palely eosinophilic
cytoplasm. These syncytial myoepitheliomas usually lack keratin expression but are diffusely positive
for EMA; S-100 and GFAP are also generally positive. 
Prognostic parameters have only very recently been evaluated in myoepithelial tumors of soft
tissue.  Since focally infiltrative margins are common in these lesions (including typical
benign myoepitheliomas), infiltrative growth per se is unhelpful for
prognostication. The most important histologic feature of malignancy is nuclear atypia, in the form of
vesicular chromatin and prominent nucleoli.  The presence of at least moderate cytologic
atypia should lead to a diagnosis of myoepithelial carcinoma. When heterologous mesenchymal
(chondrosarcomatous or osteosarcomatous) differentiation is present in a myoepithelial carcinoma, an
alternative diagnosis of "malignant mixed tumor" may also be rendered. Mitotic activity does not
correlate well with clinical behavior, although the majority of tumors that recur or metastasize have 5
or more mitoses per 10 HPF. Morphologically benign myoepitheliomas have an approximately 20% risk for
local recurrence. In contrast, myoepithelial carcinomas (or "malignant mixed tumors") recur in nearly
50% of cases, and at least one-third metastasize. 
The chief differential diagnostic consideration for the most typical pattern of soft tissue
myoepithelioma (i.e., reticular growth with chondromyxoid stroma) is extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcoma
(EMC). EMC are typically cytologically more uniformly spindled than myoepitheliomas, which instead often
have more epithelioid cytomorphology and intratumoral cytologic and architectural heterogeneity. In some
cases, however, histologic features are virtually indistinguishable, and immunohistochemistry is
required. Focal staining for S-100 is seen in only a small subset of EMC, whereas virtually all
myoepitheliomas are diffusely positive. Moreover, expression of keratins and GFAP favors
myoepithelioma. Detection of EWS gene rearrangement can confirm the
diagnosis of EMC. Spindle cell myoepitheliomas may mimic smooth muscle or nerve sheath tumors; by
employing immunohistochemistry, the distinction among these diagnostic possibilities is usually
The primary differential diagnoses for myoepithelial carcinoma (particularly when dominated by
epithelioid cells) are metastatic carcinoma, metastatic melanoma, proximal-type epithelioid sarcoma, and
the epithelioid variant of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST). The presence of
cartilaginous differentiation (as in the case presented) should suggest the possibility of a
myoepithelial neoplasm. Metastatic carcinoma lacks the multinodular architecture and myxoid stroma of
myoepithelial carcinoma. Detection of S-100 protein and GFAP expression favor a myoepithelial tumor over
metastatic carcinoma. Similarly, the presence of myxoid stroma is exceptional in metastatic melanoma,
and immunoreactivity for epithelial and myogenic markers is very uncommon. Proximal-type epithelioid
sarcoma is typically cytologically uniform, unlike myoepithelial carcinomas, which again often show
significant heterogeneity. Expression of S-100 and GFAP is not a feature of epithelioid sarcoma.
Epithelioid MPNST shares the multinodular architecture of myoepithelial carcinoma, but instead typically
shows cytologic uniformity. Similar to myoepithelial carcinoma, MPNST may show heterologous
chondrosarcomatous differentiation (although this is uncommon in the epithelioid variant). Unlike
conventional MPNST (<50% of which show focal expression of S-100 protein), most epithelioid MPNSTs
show extensive S-100 immunoreactivity (similar to myoepithelial neoplasms); however, epithelial markers
are uncommonly detected in epithelioid MPNST.
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