Case 5 -
Epstein-Barr Virus-Associated Smooth Muscle Tumor (EBV-SMT)
Anthony T. Yachnis
University of Florida College of Medicine
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A 37 year old HIV-positive African-American male presented with a six-month history of progressively
worsening vision on the left and recent development of persistent bifrontal headaches. On examination,
he was almost completely blind on the left. MRI revealed a 5.5 X 5.0 X 4.0 cm heterogeneously enhancing
mass involving much of the left anterior cranial fossa, which extended to the right cerebral hemisphere
and involved the skull base. There was significant mass effect and vasogenic edema of the adjacent
The past medical history was significant for a diagnosis of AIDS two years prior to admission for
which the patient was treated with Combivir, Viramune, and Azithromycin. About a year before the current
admission, he presented with back pain of two weeks duration and was found to have a 10 cm mass involving
the T6 and T7 vertebral bodies with cord compression at T7. Biopsy revealed a plasma cell neoplasm that
was CD79a and CD138-immunoreactive and was lambda light-chain restricted by in situ hybridization.
Radiation therapy produced marked reduction in size of this lesion with disappearance of circulating
A craniotomy was performed for resection and diagnosis of the intracranial tumor. Intra-operatively,
it was noted to be entirely extra-axial and appeared to invade the floor of the anterior cranial fossa.
The neoplasm was firm and somewhat elastic peripherally but softer and gelatinous internally and could be
readily separated from the adjacent cerebral surface. A near total resection was performed, which
provided diagnostic material.
Case 5 - Slide 1
Case 5 - Figure 1 - Imaging studies (MRI) showing a large anterior cranial fossa lesion with contrast-enhancement (left image: T1-weighted after contrast) and peritumoral edema (right image: FLAIR-"Fluid attenuation inversion recovery").
Case 5 - Figure 2 - Low magnification view showing circumferential arrangement of tumor cells around a hyalinized blood vessel. The surrounding stroma presents an ischemic appearance. (H&E: Original magnification: X 250)
Case 5 - Figure 3 - A cellular area of the tumor showing scattered intratumoral capillaries. (H&E: Original magnification: X 250)
Case 5 - Figure 4 - High magnification showing spindle-shaped neoplastic cells with eosinophilic cytoplasm, inconspicuous cell borders, and elongated nuclei (some with blunt ends).
Case 5 - Figure 5 - An area of coagulation necrosis. (H&E: Original magnification: X 1000)
Case 5 - Figure 6 - Immunohistochemical stain for smooth muscle actin showing diffuse, strong reactivity of tumor cells. (Original magnification: X 500)
Case 5 - Figure 7 - In situ hybridization for EBER (Epstein-Barr virus-encoded early RNA) showing strong positivity for the anti-sense probe (left image) but no reaction with the sense (negative control) probe. (Original magnification: X 500)
Epstein-Barr virus-associated smooth muscle tumor (EBV-SMT)
Histologic findings : Low magnification
study revealed cellular areas of tumor that were interrupted by prominent areas of eosinophilic,
ischemic-appearing changes. In the latter areas, tumor cells were circumferentially arranged around
hyalinized blood vessels. Fascicular arrangements of neoplastic cells were present and more cellular
areas of tumor contained delicate capillaries. At higher magnification, tumor cells were spindle-shaped,
having eosinophilic cytoplasm, indistinct cell borders, and elongated, blunt-ended nuclei, many with a
single small nucleolus. There was only mild to focally moderate atypia. Areas of frank coagulation
necrosis were present as well as other areas with degenerative or hyalinized ischemic-like change.
Primitive-appearing round cells and intratumoral lymphocytes were not conspicuous by routine examination
in this tumor. Overall, less than one mitosis per ten high power fields was counted.
Special studies : Tumor cells were
strongly and diffusely immunoreactive for smooth muscle actin (SMA) and vimentin but negative for desmin,
CD99, EMA, S-100, cytokeratin (AE1/AE3), and bcl-2. Tumor cells were negative for CD34, which was
strongly reactive in intratumoral blood vessels. An acid-fast stain to exclude the possibility of a
pseudosarcomatous reaction to a treatable mycobacterial infection was negative. However, in-situ
hybridization to detect Epstein-Barr virus-encoded early RNA (EBER) was strongly positive in most tumor
cell nuclei. These findings support and confirm the diagnosis of an Epstein-Barr virus-associated smooth
muscle tumor (EBV-SMT).
EBV-SMT : The occurrence of unusual
smooth muscle tumors in immunocompromised patients has been recognized since the early 1970's . They
were first identified in association with organ transplantation, and subsequently in patients with AIDS
and inherited immunodeficiency syndromes. The association of Epstein-Barr virus infection was first
reported in 1995
Including a spectrum of smooth muscle tumors ranging from leiomyoma to
leiomyosarcoma, such tumors tend to occur in atypical locations such as the lung, liver, spleen, bladder,
heart, thyroid, and the nervous system
Most examples affecting the nervous system have been classified as leiomyosarcomas based on
conventional histologic criteria
although leiomyomas affecting the spinal cord in
immunosuppressed patients have also been reported
Intracranial EBV-SMTs tend to arise as
extra-axial neoplasms of the skull base and most appear to have some association with the dura, including
dural venous sinuses .
One intra-axial tumor arose in the basal ganglia of a child . Multifocal
neoplasms of this type have involved several organ systems including the nervous system
In order to compare the extent to which EBV-SMTs resemble classic smooth muscle neoplasms, Deyrup and
colleagues  recently examined the clinicopathologic features of 29 EBV-SMT from 19 patients (12 males
and 7 females). Tumors arose in adults (mean age: 39 years) with a history of organ transplantation
(n=10), AIDS (n=8), or steroid therapy (n=1) and were located in soft tissue, lungs, liver, spleen,
extradural regions, tonsil, vocal cords, gall bladder, urinary bladder, adrenal, pleura, bone, and spinal
cord. Multifocal tumors were present in seven cases. Histologically, appearances were those of a
well-differentiated smooth muscle tumor with mild to, at most, moderate pleomorphism, and generally less
than three mitoses per ten high power fields (<3/10 HPF). Although occasional tumors had areas of
necrosis and/or myxoid change, high grade sarcoma histology was not observed. Of note, the authors
identified the presence of primitive round cell areas and a variable lymphocytic infiltrate in this
series of EVB-SMT, which are not considered to be typical of more conventional smooth muscle tumors .
Although many of these neoplasms presented features suggestive of a low grade malignancy by conventional
histology, only one patient died of tumor (three died of other causes). This study emphasized that the
clinicopathologic features of EBV-SMT are quite different from sporadic leiomyosarcoma, which overall has
a much worse prognosis.
In another disparity from conventional smooth muscle tumors, which tend to arise from organs
containing large amounts of smooth muscle (such as the uterus), EBV-SMTs are believed to arise from the
smooth muscle of blood vessels. Hence, early infection of vascular smooth muscle by EBV has been
suggested to occur in studies where clonal expansion of smooth muscle cells infected with EBV was
The linear EBV genome becomes circular upon entering an infected cell such that
the number of long terminal repeats (LTR) of this genome becomes non-random. Clonality analysis can thus
be determined in the tumor by studying the LTR region of EBV. Deyrup and colleagues  performed such
an analysis in several individuals with multifocal EBV-SMTs and found that the number of LTRs varied both
between different patients and between multifocal neoplasms in the same patient. From the latter
observation, they concluded that multifocal disease most likely results from multiple infection events
rather that by metastasis from a primary site. This would be supported by the better prognosis for
patients with EBV-SMT compared with conventional leiomyosarcoma.
Differential Diagnosis : The differential diagnosis includes tumors
arising in the anterior cranial fossa (ACF) that may have a dural attachment. Tumors of this
intracranial compartment may grow quite large before becoming symptomatic because of the paucity of
symptoms referable to the anterior frontal lobes. Although meningiomas account for the majority of such
lesions, other less common entities may occasionally be encountered. It should be mentioned here that
intracranial benign and malignant smooth muscle tumors of the more typical type rarely arise in
non-immunocompromised patients and are not typically EBV-associated . Tumors of the
hemangiopericytoma/solitary fibrous tumor group may present as dural-based tumors. Immunohistochemical
staining for CD34 may be useful for this differential diagnosis. Hematologic malignancies such as
extramedullary myeloid tumors ("granulocytic sarcomas") or MALT-like lymphomatous processes may sometimes
present as dural-based lesions. Intracranial nerve sheath tumors present most commonly as CP-angle
schwannomas arising from the vestibular branch of the eighth cranial nerve but can arise from other
cranial nerves. Nerve sheath tumors do not typically present in the anterior cranial fossa. Small blue
cell tumors such as rhabdomyosarcomas in children or esthesioneuroblastomas may present as anterior skull
base masses and rare examples of mesenchymal chondrosarcoma and synovial sarcoma could occasionally be
encountered in this location. Finally, in the setting of immunosupression, the possibility of a
pseudosarcomatous reaction to Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare (MAI)
should be considered in any unusual spindle cell lesion .
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