Origins and molecular biology of testicular germ cell tumors
Testicular germ cell tumors can be divided into three groups (infantile/prepubertal, adolescent/young adult and spermatocytic seminoma), each with its own constellation of clinical histology, molecular and clinical features. They originate from germ cells at different stages of development. The most common testicular cancers arise in postpubertal men and are characterized genetically by having one or more copies of an isochromosome of the short arm of chromosome 12 [i(12p)] or other forms of 12p amplification and by aneuploidy. The consistent gain of genetic material from chromosome 12 seen in these tumors suggests that it has a crucial role in their development. Intratubular germ cell neoplasia, unclassified type (IGCNU) is the precursor to these invasive tumors. Several factors have been associated with their pathogenesis, including cryptorchidism, elevated estrogens in utero and gonadal dysgenesis. Tumors arising in prepubertal gonads are either teratomas or yolk sac tumors, tend to be diploid and are not associated with i(12p) or with IGCNU. Spermatocytic seminoma (SS) arises in older patients. These benign tumors may be either diploid or aneuploid and have losses of chromosome 9 rather than i(12p). Intratubular SS is commonly encountered but IGCNU is not. The pathogenesis of prepubertal GCT and SS is poorly understood.