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Conventional Risk Stratification Fails to Predict Progression of Succinate Dehydrogenase–deficient Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

A Clinicopathologic Study of 76 Cases

Mason, Emily F. MD, PhD; Hornick, Jason L. MD, PhD

The American Journal of Surgical Pathology: December 2016 - Volume 40 - Issue 12 - p 1616–1621
doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000000685
Original Articles

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) that lack kinase mutations often show loss of function of the succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex, due to germline mutation or promoter hypermethylation. SDH-deficient GISTs are exclusive to the stomach and have a multinodular architecture. It has been suggested that conventional risk stratification criteria may not predict outcome for this group of tumors, although data are limited. Here, we report the clinical, histologic, and genetic findings from a large cohort of 76 SDH-deficient GISTs diagnosed from 2005 to 2015, identified on the basis of histologic features or family history (45 female/31 male; mean age at diagnosis 32 y; range 11 to 71 y; 10 patients 50 y of age or above). Immunohistochemistry for SDHB and SDHA showed loss of SDHB in all cases and loss of SDHA in 28 (37%) tumors. Tumor size ranged from 1.9 to 22.5 cm; the primary tumor was multifocal in 29%. Mitotic rate ranged from 1 to 80 per 5 mm2 (median 5.5). Lymph node metastases were found at primary resection in 14 (18%) patients. Twenty-four patients (32%) had distant metastases at presentation, and 52 of 70 patients (74%) with follow-up developed distant metastases, most often to the liver, but also bone, lungs, breast, and brain. Applying conventional criteria (size and mitotic rate), 60% to 82% of patients with tumors ranging from very low risk to high risk for progressive disease developed distant metastases, regardless of the category. Carney-Stratakis syndrome and Carney triad were diagnosed in 6 and 8 patients, respectively. Of 35 patients tested, 26 harbored SDH mutations (11 SDHA, 8 SDHB, 6 SDHC, 1 SDHD). Follow-up data available for 70 patients ranged from 1 month to 39.3 years: 20 patients had no evidence of disease (mean 6.1 y), 32 were alive with metastases (mean 10.9 y), and 18 died of disease (mean 7.0 y after diagnosis). In summary, SDH-deficient GISTs account for approximately 8% of gastric GISTs and are associated with a high rate of distant metastasis, regardless of conventional risk category. Many affected patients have germline SDH mutations (most often SDHA). Identification of SDH-deficient GISTs is critical for prognostication and genetic counseling.

Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Presented in part at the 105th Annual Meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Seattle, WA, March 12-18, 2016.

Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

Correspondence: Jason L. Hornick, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115 (e-mail:

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