No small surprise – small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcaemic type, is a malignant rhabdoid tumour

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Abstract

Whole-exome sequencing (WES) is revolutionizing medical diagnostics and taxonomy. In less than 5 years since its first use, WES has revealed unexpected molecular drivers of numerous cancers. Here, we describe our use of WES to uncover the true nature of an enigmatic pathological entity, small-cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcaemic type (SCCOHT), which has resisted definitive characterisation since it was first described in 1979. We conducted WES using three families with SCCOHT and identified deleterious mutations in the chromatin-remodelling geneSMARCA4(encoding BRG1) in all cases. Follow-up of these findings, using both Sanger sequencing and WES of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumours, showed that virtually all SCCOHTs we studied lacked functionalSMARCA4/BRG1. Notably, this gene, and the relatedSMARCB1gene, is mutated in most, if not all, atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumours and malignant rhabdoid tumours. Other groups have similar findings. We review the relationship between these three neoplasms, discuss how they were distinguished from morphologically similar neoplasms, consider their similarities and show how WES has revealed that SCCOHTs are in fact rhabdoid tumours. We propose that SCCOHT be renamed ‘malignant rhabdoid tumour of the ovary’ (MRTO) to reflect these observations.

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