Soft Tissue Pathology
Moderators: Dr. John R. Goldblum and Dr. Cyril Fisher
Case 1 -
Atypical fibroblastic neoplasm with pseudoangiomatous,
cystic/microcystic and myxoid features, possibly solitary fibrous tumor variant
Janez Lamovec, M.D.
Institute of Oncology
An 81-year-old woman presented with a subcutaneous tumor of the
nape of the neck. The tumor was first noted 3 years previously when it measured 3 cm. Recently, it
enlarged considerably and prompted the patient to seek medical attention.
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On physical examination, a subcutaneous tumor measuring 10 x 10 cm was seen; it was covered by livid
skin. Tumor was relatively soft on palpation, and not fixed to skin and spine. It was marginally
Gross specimen was represented by a segment of skin and
subcutaneous tissue with a tumor measuring 8.5 x 6 cm; overlying skin was stretched by a bulging tumor
but intact, at deep margin there was a segment of muscle fascia and thin muscle layer. All margins were
free of tumor. On cut surface, the tumor appeared fleshy, red-brown, soft, well circumscribed.
Microscopically, tumor shows a thin capsule and expansive margins toward dermis and underlying fascia
without any infiltration of these structures. It shows innumerable cysts filled with blood or
proteinaceous fluid; smaller cysts appear empty. In addition, many spaces are confluent and form larger
blood lakes. The cellular tissue among the cysts and lakes is for the most part loose, focally myxoid;
denser cellular areas are also present. The neoplastic cells are spindle, oval or stellate with
relatively normochromic oval, elongated or spindle nuclei of different sizes with small or indistinct
nucleoli. Some binucleated cells are also seen while there are no distinct multinucleated giant cells.
Rare nuclear cytoplasmic inclusions are also seen. The cytoplasm is generally sparse or moderate in
amount, eosinophilic. Scattered cells with more abundant cytoplasm may be found; in some neoplastic
cells there are intracytoplasmic vacuoles and in others the cytoplasm appears foamy. No lipoblasts or
lipocytes are found. Mitoses are rare; there is < 1 mitosis per HPF, some atypical forms may be
identified. Majority of the tumor shows disordered growth of cells although in some parts there is some
fascicular arrangement of spindle cells, in other foci a storiform pattern of growth is suggested and a
hemangiopericytoid appearance may also be appreciated focally. The vast majority of cystic spaces, small
and large, are lined by tumor cells and not by endothelium. True vascular structures are for the most
part thin-walled; thick-walled vessels are rare. The interstitial matrix contains amorphous or vaguely
fibrillary proteinaceous fluid,some extravasated erythrocytes and relatively numerous reticulin fibers
revealed by Gomori staining; collagen fibers as highlighted by van Gieson stain are extremely scant
except for a few foci; mostly hyalinized. Inflammatory cells are sparse, mostly small lymphocytes.
Immunohistochemically, tumor cells were diffusely positive for vimentin, CD34 and bcl-2 while positivity
for alpha smooth muscle actin and calponin was observed in a number of cells although unevenly
distributed. Nuclei of many cells showed positive reaction for progesterone receptors. Only occasional
cells, mostly endothelial, were positive for CD68. CD31 and factor VIII delineated focally quite dense
network of mostly thin-walled and compressed delicate blood vessels that were not so easily appreciated
on H&E. Proliferation marker MIB-1 decorated less than 2% of neoplastic nuclei. The reaction to
numerous other antigens was negative, including desmin, caldesmon, EMA, MNF116, estrogen receptors, CD21,
CD99, CD117, and ALK.
Ultramicroscopical examination of tissue material obtained from formalin fixed paraffin embedded
tissue showed short fascicles and disorderly arranged plump and spindle shaped neoplastic cells with
fibroblastic characteristics; no identifiable myofibroblasts were found. In extracellular matrix, there
was a relatively abundant granulo-fibrillary material and no collagen fibers.
Flow cytometric DNA measurements showed no abnormal DNA content.
Atypical fibroblastic neoplasm with pseudoangiomatous,
cystic/microcystic and myxoid features, possibly solitary fibrous tumor variant
Five years and a half following surgery the patient is alive, 86
years old, and shows no evidence of local recurrence or metastatic disease.
This case of a soft tissue tumor is difficult to classify into
any existing and well-known category of soft tissue neoplasms. The overall relative cytological
uniformity, thin peripheral capsule, expansive margins and a scarcity of the inflammatory component are
arguments for neoplastic rather than pseudoneoplastic nature of the lesion.
The morphology of the tumor and also a relatively long follow-up without evidence of recurrence
are in favor of its benign or at most borderline biological nature.
It is possible that the present soft tissue tumor is an unusual variant of a solitary fibrous tumor
(SFT). It has been known for quite a while that there are many faces to this neoplasm, either inside an
individual case or among different cases. Similarly to pleural and to extrapleural SFTs of various
sites, there were several growth patterns also described in SFT of soft tissues: haphazard,
hemangiopericytoid, myxoid, alternating hypercellular/hypocellular spindle cell pattern, storiform
tumors may contain fat cells and multinucleated giant cells being similar or identical to
so-called lipomatous hemangiopericytomas 
and giant cell angiofibromas or giant fibroblastomas
. Microcystic changes, myxoid appearance and pseudovascular spaces were also described in SFT .
Several of the patterns listed above are also seen, at least focally, in the presented tumor, but the
general aspect of it, including cytological features and extensive, almost diffuse microcystic pattern
does not quite fit into the picture. Alternating hypercellular and hypocellular sclerotic foci, bland
looking spindly cells, intimate intertwining of thin and thick collagen with spindly cells, and also the
characteristic haphazard, storiform or fascicular arrangement of cells are not so obvious; these features
are essential for the firm diagnosis of SFT .
Giant cell angiofibroma 
and giant cell fibroblastoma  are even less probable possibilities for
our case. Pseudovascular spaces are observed in both of the former tumors, and CD 34 positive stromal
cells may also be somewhat similar to those in the presented case. However, in both of them,
multinucleated giant cells lining pseudovascular spaces are characteristically present; they were not
found in our case.
Cellular angiofibroma, a tumor of superficial soft tissue, mostly in external genital areas, is a very
remote differential diagnostic possibility . It is altogether different tumor with numerous evenly
spaced small and medium sized thick-walled blood vessels set in a relatively uniform stroma composed of
bland, CD34 positive spindle cells with short bundles of collagen. No pseudovascular or microcystic
spaces were observed in cases described. Somewhat morphologically overlapping and perhaps to cellular
angiofibroma related tumor of the genital area, angiomyofibroblastoma, a tumor with many prominent
vessels and loose stroma with round to spindle fibroblastic and myofibroblastic cells, strongly positive
for desmin , is even less probable diagnosis; the tumor has not been described outside genital region
neither in females nor in males.
Another two, subcutaneous, CD34 positive lesions, such as mammary-type fibroblastoma of soft tissues
 and spindle
cell lipoma , two closely related lesions with only subtle differences in
appearance, may also be considered in differential diagnosis. They are composed of uniform spindle cells
with oval or tapered nuclei, often wavy in contours, and usually arranged in fascicles of different
length. Admixed lipocytes are almost always present. Hyalinized bands of collagen in the former or
ropey collagen in a latter is a prominent feature. Vascularity of both tumors is not marked but
pseudovascular spaces were described in both of them . Although rare microscopic foci in our tumor
may vaguely resemble these two tumors, it is generally morphologically quite different from both of them.
Aneurysmal benign fibrous histiocytoma, is a cutaneous tumor, rarely with subcutaneous involvement,
with blood filled aneurysmal spaces but with polymorphous cellular composition, with numerous giant
cells, more extensive hemosiderin deposition and CD34 negative cells . Several morphologic features
and cutaneous location most strongly argue against such a diagnosis for the presented case.
Immunohistochemical results in our case do not substantially contribute to more exact classification
of it. Positivity for CD34 is shared by a plethora of soft tissue tumors; that for smooth muscle actin
may potentially show to some myofibroblastic differentiation, and positive reaction for progesterone
receptors may not be so easily explained; it may or may not indicate some hormonal effects on tumor
cells; estrogen receptors were not present. It is interesting that the positivity for progesterone
receptors has been demonstrated previously in some SFT cases while no estrogen receptors positivity was
Thus, the exact nature of our tumor remains unclear. The closest one can get with differential
diagnostic possibilities is to consider it as a fibroblastic tumor, perhaps somewhat related to SFT. In
previous ultramicroscopical studies, the cells composing SFT showed considerable heterogeneity: in
addition to fibroblasts, numerous perivascular undifferentiated cells and pericytes were demonstrated. A
minority of cells were myofibroblasts . In our case, EM examination of a relatively poorly preserved
tissue showed only fibroblastic cells; no myofibroblasts were identified. In regard to latter cells, it
has been disputed how strict the criteria for ultramicroscopical identification of myofibroblasts should
be and whether a tumor could be diagnosed at all as a myofibroblastic by light microscopical and
immunohistochemical methods only
In addition, it has not been clearly stated what should be the
proportion of neoplastic myofibroblasts in a given tumor to call it myofibroblastic,
fibroblastic/myofibroblastic or simply fibroblastic. It appears that many transitional forms exist but
are not clearly defined. Moreover, a number of tumors listed above are morphologically and biologically
related and there is a considerable overlapping among them. It is not certain if the presented tumor may
also be in a gray zone between different fibroblastic and myofibroblastic neoplasms. Future cytogenetic
and molecular studies might potentially elucidate the nature of some of such tumors.
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