The 2020 WHO Classification of Tumors of Soft Tissue: Selected Changes and New Entities

Joon Hyuk Choi, Jae Y. Ro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


Soft tissue tumors are a relatively rare and diagnostically challenging group of neoplasms that can have varying lines of differentiation. Accurate diagnosis is important for appropriate treatment and prognostication. In the 8 years since the publication of the 4th Edition of World Health Organization (WHO) classification of soft tissue tumors, significant advances have been made in our understanding of soft tissue tumor molecular biology and diagnostic criteria. The 5th Edition of the 2020 WHO classification of tumors of soft tissue and bone incorporated these changes. Classification of tumors, in general, but particularly in soft tissue tumors, is increasingly based on the molecular characteristics of tumor types. Understanding tumor molecular genetics improves diagnostic accuracy for tumors that have been difficult to classify on the basis of morphology alone, or that have overlapping morphologic features. In many large hospitals in the United States and Europe, molecular tests on soft tissue tumors are a routine part of diagnosis. Therefore, surgical pathologists should be familiar with newly emerging molecular genetic techniques in clinical settings. In the near future, molecular tests, particularly in soft tissue tumor diagnosis, will become as routine during diagnosis as immunohistochemistry is currently. This new edition provides an updated classification scheme and essential diagnostic criteria for soft tissue tumors. Newly recognized entities and subtypes of existing tumor types, several reclassified tumors, and newly defined molecular and genetic data have been incorporated. Herein, we summarize the updates in the WHO 5th Edition, focusing on major changes in each category of soft tissue tumor, and the newly described tumor entities and subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-58
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Anatomic Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • WHO classification
  • genetics
  • sarcoma
  • soft tissue
  • tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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