Immunohistochemical characterization of giant cell tumor of bone treated with denosumab: Support for osteoblastic differentiation

Darcy A. Kerr, Iva Brcic, Julio A. Diaz-Perez, Angela Shih, Breelyn A Wilky, Juan Pretell-Mazzini, Ty K. Subhawong, G. Petur Nielsen, Andrew E. Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Giant cell tumor of bone is a locally aggressive, rarely metastasizing neoplasm. Evidence suggests that the neoplastic cells may be osteoblastic in differentiation. Standard treatment is surgical removal, but medical therapy with denosumab, an inhibitor of receptor activator of nuclear factor-κβ ligand, has become a component of patient management in select cases. Denosumab-treated giant cell tumor of bone (DT-GCTB) shows drastic morphologic changes including the presence of abundant bone. To further determine the relationship of the neoplastic cells to osteoblast phenotype, we performed a morphologic and immunohistochemical study on a series of DT-GCTB. Cases of DT-GCTB were retrieved from surgical pathology files, available slides were reviewed, and immunohistochemistry for H3.3 G34W, SATB2, and p63 was performed. The cohort included 31 tumors from 30 patients (2:3 male:female), ages 15 to 73 years (median=36 y). The morphology of post-denosumab-treated tumors ranged from tumors composed of an abundant bone matrix with few spindle cells to spindle cell-predominant tumors. Five had focal residual classic CGTB, and 2 manifested mild nuclear atypia. The majority expressed all markers: 86.2% for H3.3 G34W, 96.7% for SATB2, and 100% for p63. All markers stained the various tumor components including spindle cells and the cells on the surface of and within the treated tumor bone matrix. Most markers were also positive in reactive-appearing woven bone adjacent to tumor: 84.6% for H3.3 G34W, 100% for SATB2, and 68% for p63. These findings suggest that denosumab treatment of giant cell tumor of bone results in osteoblastic differentiation with bone production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Denosumab
  • Giant cell tumor of bone
  • H3F3A H3.3 G34W
  • Histone mutation
  • Immunohistochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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