Neoplasms arising from the vulva are uncommon and comprise various subtypes. Given the recent advancements in the molecular aspects of oncologic pathology and how they have impacted cancer treatment, an understanding of recent innovations in the molecular features of vulvar lesions is important.
Materials and Methods
Systematic literature search was performed on PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus databases for molecular and genetic characteristics of vulvar neoplasms. Peer-reviewed literature published in English is included.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and its precursors are the predominant neoplasm at this site. Human papillomavirus (HPV) plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of some of these lesions. Human papillomavirus–associated SCC follows the carcinogenic pathway driven by viral proteins E6 and E7 while HPV-independent SCC shows a high incidence of mutation of TP53 and CDKN2A genes. Mutations in the genes involving the PI3K-Akt pathway play an important role in the pathogenesis of both types of SCC. Among other vulvar malignancies, melanoma, and vulvar Paget disease (VPD) pose a significant clinical challenge and have unique molecular characteristics. Compared with dermal cutaneous melanoma, vulvar melanoma shows a higher rate of mutation of cKIT and NRAS genes and a lower rate of mutations in BRAF. Less than 20% of VPD shows amplification of ERBB2 and seldom shows mutation in genes involving the PI3K-Akt pathway.
Several potentially targetable molecular pathways have emerged as they have been shown to be involved in the tumorigenesis of SCC, melanoma, and VPD.