Giant cell tumors of soft tissue: A clinicopathologic study of 18 benign and malignant tumors

John X. O'Connell, Bret M. Wehrli, Gunnlaugur P. Nielsen, Andrew E. Rosenberg

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105 Scopus citations


Primary giant cell tumors (GCTs) of soft tissue resembling osseous GCTs are uncommon but distinct entities. Malignant GCTs of soft tissue have been designated giant cell malignant fibrous histiocytomas; however, there is scant data regarding benign GCTs of soft tissue. Eleven benign and seven malignant GCTs of soft tissue were identified from the authors' consultation files and the surgical pathology files of the Vancouver General Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. The tumors occurred in adults (eight men, 10 women; age range, 25-89 years; mean age, 54 years) in the extremities (n = 14) and in the trunk, abdomen, and pelvis (n = 4). In each patient the skeleton was normal and there was no history of prior osseous GCT. Tumors ranged in size from 0.8 to 9.0 cm. Eleven occurred in the superficial soft tissue and seven occurred in deep soft tissue. Grossly they were circumscribed and frequently hemorrhagic. Cystic change was present in seven tumors. Nine tumors were partially surrounded by a shell of reactive bone. In all tumors, multinucleated osteoclast-like giant cells were distributed uniformly and evenly among mononuclear cells. The histologically benign GCTs of soft tissue were identical to typical osseous GCTs. The mononuclear cells in these tumors lacked nuclear atypia or pleomorphism, and the mitotic rate within this population was low (mean, three mitoses per 10 high-power fields [HPF]). In the malignant GCTs of soft tissue, the mononuclear cells exhibited anisocytosis, nuclear atypia, pleomorphism, and readily detectable mitoses including atypical forms (mean, 25 mitoses per 10 HPF). None of the benign or malignant tumors exhibited neoplastic bone production. The benign and malignant GCTs of soft tissue demonstrated a similar immunohistochemical staining profile to GCT of bone (12 tumors examined), exhibiting strong positive staining for CD68 within multinucleated osteoclastlike cells, and focal staining of mononuclear cells for CD68, Ham 56, and smooth muscle actin. All tumors were treated by surgical resection. Follow-up information is available for 15 patients (range, 0-108 months). No benign tumor has recurred or metastasized. Of the four patients with malignant tumors for whom follow-up information is available, one died of metastatic disease at 13 months and one developed a local recurrence at 84 months but is alive, apparently free of disease after additional excisional surgery. Primary GCTs of soft tissue are distinctive neoplasms that, like osseous GCTs, exhibit a wide clinicopathologic spectrum. These neoplasms should be distinguished from other giant cell-rich soft-tissue tumors with which they may be confused.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-395
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Giant cell tumor
  • Giant cell tumor of bone
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  • Soft tissue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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