Sarcomatoid neoplasms of the lung and pleura
Sarcomatoid neoplasms of the lung and pleura are rare tumors that present a complex differential diagnosis, making them challenging for surgical pathologists. In the lung, the main tumors are the sarcomatoid carcinomas, including pleomorphic carcinoma, spindle cell carcinoma, giant cell carcinoma, carcinosarcoma, and pulmonary blastoma. They are characterized by histologic heterogeneity; molecular data support their origin from a pluripotent stem cell that undergoes neoplastic transformation with divergent epithelial and sarcomatous differentiation. Diagnosis is difficult in small biopsy specimens and typically requires a resection specimen. Despite the presence of sarcomatoid features, these tumors are classified as lung carcinomas. Pulmonary blastomas must be distinguished from pleuropulmonary blastomas, which are a unique type of thoracic sarcoma typically occurring in young children. In the pleura, the main tumors to consider are the sarcomatoid and desmoplastic types of malignant mesothelioma, solitary fibrous tumor, and desmoid tumor. While light microscopy is sufficient to diagnose most of these tumors, immunohistochemistry can be useful in selected settings. In particular, it can aid to confirm epithelial differentiation in spindle cell carcinomas and the presence of rhabdomyosarcoma in sarcomatoid carcinomas, mesotheliomas, or pleuropulmonary blastomas. For sarcomatoid and desmoplastic mesothelioma, keratin is the most useful stain because it can highlight invasive growth and mesothelial markers are positive in only the minority of cases. Clinical and radiologic correlation is needed to separate some pleomorphic carcinomas with pleural involvement from sarcomatoid malignant mesothelioma, since these poorly differentiated tumors may not express the usual immunohistochemical markers for carcinoma or mesothelioma.