Salivary Gland Neoplasms: Does Morphological Diversity Reflect Tumor Heterogeneity?

Research paper by Miguel M Rito, Isabel I Fonseca

Indexed on: 21 Sep '17Published on: 21 Sep '17Published in: Pathobiology : journal of immunopathology, molecular and cellular biology


Salivary gland tumor classification encompasses a vast list of benign and malignant neoplasms. Their morphological diversity is recognized not only between different entities but also within individual tumors. Tumor categories as described by the World Health Organization reflect, in part, a true genetic heterogeneity (e.g., translocations involving CRTC1 and CRTC3-MAML2 genes in mucoepidermoid carcinoma and MYB-NFIB fusion in adenoid cystic carcinoma). Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma shows diversity in its histological appearance, but recurrent rearrangements on PLAG1 and HMGA2 are common to its benign precursor. More recently, new categories have been defined, like secretory carcinoma with the t(12;15) (p13;q25) ETV6-NTRK3 translocation and clear-cell carcinoma with EWSR1-ATF1 fusion. Recent studies on cribriform adenocarcinoma of minor salivary gland origin and epithelial-myoepithelial carcinoma point to a correlation with their morphological features. All of these advances show that the search of a histogenetic and genetic basis for salivary gland tumors is helping to clarify morphological categories and unraveling new ones. Nevertheless, currently morphology is still the hallmark of tumor classification and the gold standard. The therapeutic options for advanced tumors remain very limited but the discovery of translocation-generated gene fusions and increased knowledge of the genomic information of salivary gland tumors is creating opportunities for the development of specific targeted therapies.