Sarcomatoid and Rhabdoid Renal Cell Carcinoma: Clinical, Pathologic, and Molecular Genetic Features.

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) with sarcomatoid and rhabdoid morphologies has an aggressive biological behavior and a typically poor prognosis. The current 2022 WHO classification of renal tumors does not include them as distinct histologic entities but rather as transformational changes that may arise in a background of various distinct histologic types of RCC. The sarcomatoid component shows malignant spindle cells that may grow as intersecting fascicles, which is reminiscent of pleomorphic undifferentiated sarcoma. The rhabdoid cells are epithelioid cells with eccentrically located vesicular nuclei with prominent nucleoli and large intracytoplasmic eosinophilic inclusions. Studies have shown that RCCs with sarcomatoid and rhabdoid differentiation have distinctive molecular features. Sarcomatoid RCC harbors shared genomic alterations in carcinomatous and rhabdoid components, but also enrichment of specific genomic alterations in the sarcomatoid element, suggesting molecular pathways for development of sarcomatoid growth from a common clonal ancestor. Rhabdoid differentiation also arises through clonal evolution although less is known of specific genomic alterations in rhabdoid cells. Historically, treatment has lacked efficacy, although recently immunotherapy with PD-1/PD-L1/CTLA-4 inhibitors has produced significant clinical responses. Reporting of sarcomatoid and rhabdoid features in renal cell carcinoma is required by the College of American Pathologists and the International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting. This manuscript reviews the clinical, pathologic, and molecular features of sarcomatoid RCC and rhabdoid RCC with emphasis on the morphologic features of these tumors, significance of diagnostic recognition, the molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis and differentiation along sarcomatoid and rhabdoid lines, and advances in treatment, particularly immunotherapy.

The American journal of surgical pathology. 2024 May 13 [Epub ahead of print]

Adebowale J Adeniran, Brian Shuch, Peter A Humphrey

Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT., Department of Urology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.