Research Papers:

New transcriptional-based insights into the pathogenesis of desmoplastic small round cell tumors (DSRCTs)

Tiziana Negri, Silvia Brich, Fabio Bozzi, Chiara V. Volpi, Ambra V. Gualeni, Silvia Stacchiotti, Loris De Cecco, Silvana Canevari, Annunziata Gloghini and Silvana Pilotti _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:32492-32504. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.16477

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Tiziana Negri1,*, Silvia Brich1,2,*, Fabio Bozzi1, Chiara V. Volpi3, Ambra V. Gualeni3, Silvia Stacchiotti4, Loris De Cecco5, Silvana Canevari5, Annunziata Gloghini3 and Silvana Pilotti1

1 Department of Diagnostic Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Laboratory of Experimental Molecular Pathology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

2 MOSE-DEA, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

3 Department of Diagnostic Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

4 Adult Mesenchymal Tumor and Rare Cancer Medical Oncology Unit, Cancer Medicine Department, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

5 Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

* These authors have contributed equally to the study

Correspondence to:

Silvana Pilotti, email:

Keywords: GEP; MErT/EMT; immunological ignorance; AR; Meflin/PDGFRA

Received: February 08, 2017 Accepted: March 13, 2017 Published: March 22, 2017


To gain new insights into desmoplastic small round cell tumors (DSRCTs) by means of gene expression profiling (GEP). Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded surgical specimens obtained from seven pretreated DSRCT patients were interrogated using GEP complemented by immunohistochemistry, a cancer stem cell array, and miRNA in situ hybridisation, including the combined chimera modules miRNA-200/ZEB1 and miRNA-34/SLUG. The chimera modules divided the cases into three classes that respectively recapitulated the traits of mesenchymal epithelial reverse transition (MErT), epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), and hybrid/partial EMT. This indicates a close correlation between the reprogramming governed by EMT regulators and DSRCT biology, which was further confirmed by miRNA-21 and is consistent with the broad morphological spectrum of DSRCTs. Starting from the miRNA-200/ZEB1 axis, we also found that DSRCTs carry a signature of immunological ignorance that is not responsive to PD-­L1 blockade. Evidence that the up-regulation of miRNA-200 and E-cadherin, and quite a high level of miRNA-21 expression segregate with the MErT supports the idea that, in addition to the hybrid/partial state, MErT is also enriched in stemness: the androgen-positive cases, whose stemness traits were confirmed by stem cell arrays, all fell into these two classes. Our findings also confirmed that tumoral cell PDGFRA expression correlates with desmoplasia, and demonstrated the co-expression of PDGFRA and ISLR/Meflin, another marker of pluripotency. Despite the limited number of cases, these findings provide unexpectedly relevant information concerning the pathogenesis of DSRCTs, and prove the validity of miRNA-based chimera circuit modelling in the clinico-pathological setting.

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