Primary malignant rhabdoid tumor of the central nervous system

Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, John Hicks, Robert Dauser, Douglas Strother, Murali Chintagumpala, Marc Horowitz, Linda Cooley, Hannes Vogel

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29 Scopus citations


Since the initial description of malignant rhabdoid tumor (MRT) of the kidney by Beckwith in 1978, MRTs have been established as a distinct clinicopathologic entity lacking nephrogenic and myogenic differentiation. MRTs are highly aggressive neoplasms with characteristic histopathologic, immunocytochemical, and ultrastructural features. Many reports have appeared documenting primary extrarenal rhabdoid tumors (ERRTs) occurring at diverse sites, including infratentorial and supratentorial compartments of the central nervous system (CNS). The authors report 2 cases of primary CNS-MRT in young male children (6.5 and 7 years of age) and review the literature on CNS-MRTs. Neuroimaging studies showed an inhomogeneous parasagittal mass in the left anterior parietal region involving the motor strip and attached to the lateral aspect of the superior sagittal sinus in one case, and a right parietal parasagittal tumor with a cystic component in the other case. Metastatic workup, including abdominal CT, was negative in both cases. Histologic examination of the resected tumors showed irregular clusters and nests of cells with variable desmoplasia in both cases. Large areas of tumor necrosis and apoptotic tumor cells were present. Prominent eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusions and eccentric, indented nuclei with conspicuous nucleoli characterized many of the tumor cells. Diffuse strong vimentin reactivity and focal strong reaction for epithelial membrane antigen (EMA) were demonstrated. Cytogenetic analyses reported a normal male karyotype in one case and an abnormal male karyotype with loss of both normal copies of chromosome 22 and gain of one structurally rearranged chromosome 22 in the other case. Ultrastructural examination displayed tumor cells with ovoid to indented nuclei, marginated chromatin, and prominent nucleoli. Intercellular junctions were not found. Masses of cytoplasmic intermediate filaments in a characteristic whorled configuration were present. CNS-MRTs are consistently vimentin positive (100%) and usually EMA positive (90%). Glial fibrillary acidic protein, neuron-specific enolase, and S-100 protein are variably expressed. Markers for myogenous differentiation are invariably absent. Ultrastructural characteristics include aggregates of intermediate filaments. Monosomy 22 occurs in some CNS rhabdoid tumors, while most renal rhabdoid tumors are cytogenetically normal with only isolated cases having del(13q), del(11p), del(22)(q11), and unbalanced reciprocal translocation involving chromosomes 8 and 22. The prognosis for CNS rhabdoid tumors is dismal and almost two-thirds of patients are dead of disease shortly after diagnosis; one-third have been reported to be alive with disease, but have been followed for only short periods; and a single patient is reported to be free of disease at 5 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
JournalUltrastructural Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • Central nervous system
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Pediatrics
  • Rhabdoid tumors
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Instrumentation
  • Structural Biology


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