Ewing Sarcoma and the History of Similar and Possibly Related Small Round Cell Tumors: From Whence Have We Come and Where are We Going?

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The diagnosis of small round cell tumors always has been extremely difficult, and our current classification systems continue to evolve. Since its initial discovery by Dr James Ewing, the historical context of what is acceptably included under the designation “Ewing sarcoma” has changed. Although Ewing sarcoma and primitive neuroectodermal tumor were both initially described in the early 20th century, these tumors were considered likely distinct entities until the end of that same century, almost 75 years later. With modern immunohistochemistry and more recent advances in molecular techniques, the understanding of Ewing sarcoma and Ewing-like tumors has improved dramatically but also raises new questions and challenges. We now know that this category of tumors is remarkably more heterogenous than initially thought, especially in regards to its cytogenetics and molecular properties, and some of these differences likely have prognostic relevance. Whether we are now expanding the spectrum of Ewing sarcoma or simply recognizing new entities is controversial. Therapeutic approaches to address these new categories and/or entities need further focus and attention. Herein, we provide a comprehensive historical perspective on Ewing sarcoma, Ewing-like tumors (CIC and BCOR-rearranged sarcomas), and related and/or similar small round cell tumors, often included in the differential diagnosis, including mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, and small cell osteosarcoma. We also seek to provide updates and insights into the evolving classification and clinical relevance of the Ewing family of tumors.

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