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Desmoplastic small round cell tumor
Classification and external resources
ICD-O: 8806/3
Display of small round blue cells characteristic of desmoplastic small round cell tumor.
Cell exhibiting blue oval and round shapes of desmoplastic small round blue cell tumor

Desmoplastic small round cell tumor is classified as a soft tissue sarcoma. It is an aggressive and rare tumor that primarily occurs as masses in the abdomen.[1] Other areas affected may include the lymph nodes, the lining of the abdomen, diaphragm, spleen, liver, chest wall, skull, spinal cord, large intestine, small intestine, bladder, brain, lungs, testicles, ovaries, and the pelvis. Reported sites of metatastic spread include the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, brain, skull, and bones.

The tumor is considered a childhood cancer that predominantly strikes boys and young adults.

The disease rarely occurs in females, but when it does the tumors can be mistaken for ovarian cancer.[2]



There are no known risk factors that have been identified specific to the disease. The tumor appears to arise from the primitive cells of childhood, and is considered a childhood cancer.

Research has indicated that there is a chimeric relationship between desmoplastic small round cell tumor and Wilm's tumor and Ewing's sarcoma.

DSRCT is associated with a unique chromosomal translocation (t11;22)(p13:q12)[3] resulting in a EWS/WT1 transcript[4] that is diagnostic of this tumor.[1] This transcript codes for a protein that acts as a transcriptional activator that fails to suppress tumor growth.

The EWS/WT1 translocation product targets ENT4.[5] ENT4 is also known as PMAT.

There is an association between desmoid tumors and Gardner's syndrome, a variant of Familial adenomatous polyposis with extra-colonic manifestations.[6]


There are few early warning signs that a patient has a desmoplastic small round cell tumor. Patients are often young and healthy as the tumors grow and spread uninhibited within the abdominal cavity. These are rare tumors and symptoms are often misdiagnosed by family physicians. The abdominal masses can grow to enormous size before being noticed by the patient. The tumors can be felt as hard, round masses by palpating the abdomen.

First symptoms of the disease often include abdominal distention, abdominal mass, abdominal or back pain, gastrointestinal obstruction, lack of appetite, ascites, anemia, and/or cachexia.

Other reported symptoms include unknown lumps, thyroid conditions, hormonal conditions, blood clotting, kidney or urological problems, testicle, breast, uterine, vaginal, or ovarian masses.


Because this is a rare tumor not many family physicians or oncologists are familiar with this disease. DSRCT in young patients can be mistaken for other abdominal tumors including rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, and mesenteric carcinoid. In older patients DSRCT can resemble lymphoma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and peritoneal carcinomatosis. In males DSRCT may be mistaken for germ cell or testicular cancer. In females DSRCT can be mistaken for Ovarian cancer. Desmoplastic small round cell tumor shares characteristics with other small round cell cancers including Ewing's sarcoma, acute leukemia, small cell mesothelioma, neuroblastoma, primitive neuroectodermal tumor, rhabdomyosarcoma, and Wilm's tumor.


The entity was first described by pathologists William L. Gerald and Juan Rosai in 1989.[7] Pathology reveals well circumscribed solid tumor nodules within a dense desmoplastic stroma. Often areas of central necrosis are present. Tumor cells have hyperchromatic nuclei with increased nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio.

On immunohistochemistry, these cells have trilinear coexpression including the epithelial marker cytokeratin, the mesenchymal markers desmin and vimentin, and the neuronal marker neuron-specific enolase. Thus, although initially thought to be of mesothelial origin due to sites of presentation, it is now hypothesized to arise from a progenitor cell with multiphenotypic differentiation.


Desmoplastic small round cell tumor is frequently misdiagnosed. Adult patients should always be referred to a sarcoma specialist. This is an aggressive, rare, fast spreading tumor and both pediatric and adult patients should be treated at a sarcoma center.

There is no standard protocol for the disease.[8] However, recent journals and studies have reported that some patients respond to high dose (P6 Protocol) chemotherapy, maintenance chemotherapy, debulking operation, cytoreductive surgery, and radiation therapy. Other treatment options include: hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, intensity-modulated radiation Therapy, radiofrequency ablation, stereotactic body radiation therapy, intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemoperfusion, and clinical trials.


The prognosis for desmoplastic small round cell tumor remains poor[9] with less than 20% surviving beyond two to three years. Prognosis often depends upon the stage of the cancer and the grade of the tumor. Because the disease can be misdiagnosed or remain undetected tumors frequently grow large within the abdomen and metastasized or seed to other parts of the body.

There is no known organ or area of origin. Desmoplastic small round cell tumor can metastasize through lymph nodes or the blood stream. Sites of metastatis include the spleen, diaphragm, liver, large and small intestine, lungs, central nervous system, bones, uterus, bladder, genitals, abdominal cavity, and the brain.

A multi-modality approach of high dose chemotherapy, aggressive surgical resection,[8] radiation, and stem cell rescue improves survival for some patients. Reports have indicated that patients will initially respond to first line chemotherapy and treatment but that relapse is common.

Some patients in remission or with inoperable tumor seem to benefit from long term low dose chemotherapy, turning desmoplastic small round cell tumor into a chronic disease.


The Stehlin Foundation[10] currently offers DSRCT patients the opportunity to send samples of their tumors free of charge for testing. Research scientists are growing the samples on nude mice and testing various chemical agents to find which are most effective against the individual's tumor.

Patients with advanced desmoplastic small round cell tumor may qualify to participate in clinical trials that are researching new drugs to treat the disease.

Alternative names

This disease is also known as: desmoplastic small round blue cell tumor; intraabdominal desmoplastic small round blue cell tumor; desmoplastic small cell tumor; desmoplastic cancer; desmoplastic sarcoma; DSRCT.

There is no connection to mesothelioma which is another disease sometimes described as desmoplastic.


  1. ^ a b Lee YS, Hsiao CH (October 2007). "Desmoplastic small round cell tumor: a clinicopathologic, immunohistochemical and molecular study of four patients". J. Formos. Med. Assoc. 106 (10): 854–60. doi:10.1016/S0929-6646(08)60051-0. PMID 17964965.  
  2. ^ Bland AE, Shah AA, Piscitelli JT, Bentley RC, Secord AA (2007). "Desmoplastic small round cell tumor masquerading as advanced ovarian cancer". Int J Gynecol Cancer 18: 847. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1438.2007.01110.x. PMID 18081791.  
  3. ^ Murphy AJ, Bishop K, Pereira C, et al. (December 2008). "A new molecular variant of desmoplastic small round cell tumor: significance of WT1 immunostaining in this entity". Hum. Pathol. 39 (12): 1763–70. doi:10.1016/j.humpath.2008.04.019. PMID 18703217.  
  4. ^ Gerald WL, Haber DA (June 2005). "The EWS-WT1 gene fusion in desmoplastic small round cell tumor". Semin. Cancer Biol. 15 (3): 197–205. doi:10.1016/j.semcancer.2005.01.005. PMID 15826834.  
  5. ^ Li H, Smolen GA, Beers LF, et al. (2008). "Adenosine transporter ENT4 is a direct target of EWS/WT1 translocation product and is highly expressed in desmoplastic small round cell tumor". PLoS ONE 3 (6): e2353. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002353. PMID 18523561. PMC 2394657.  
  6. ^ Farmer KCR, Hawley PR, Phillips RKS: Desmoid disease. In: Phillips RKS, Spigelman AD, Thomson JPS, et al. ed. Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Other Polyposis Syndromes, Boston: Little, Brown; 1994
  7. ^ Gerald WL, Rosai J. Case 2: Desmoplastic small round cell tumor with divergent differentiation. Pediatr Pathol 1989;9:177-83.
  8. ^ a b Talarico F, Iusco D, Negri L, Belinelli D (2007). "Combined resection and multi-agent adjuvant chemotherapy for intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round cell tumour: case report and review of the literature". G Chir 28 (10): 367–70. PMID 17915050.  
  9. ^ Aguilera D, Hayes-Jordan A, Anderson P, Woo S, Pearson M, Green H (2008). "Outpatient and home chemotherapy with novel local control strategies in desmoplastic small round cell tumor". Sarcoma 2008: 261589. doi:10.1155/2008/261589. PMID 18566684.  
  10. ^ Official website for Stehlin Foundation

External links



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