Fine needle aspiration of gastrointestinal stromal tumors

S. Q. Li, T. J. O'Leary, S. B. Buchner, R. M. Przygodzki, L. H. Sobin, Y. S. Erozan, D. L. Rosenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are uncommon mesenchymal tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) is one option for diagnosing GISTs before surgery. This study was designed to evaluate the clinical utility of FNA in the diagnosis of GISTs. STUDY DESIGN: FNAs from 19 GISTs originating in the stomach, small bowel and colon obtained from 1988 to 1998 were studied. Immunocytochemistry was performed on 12 cases. The GISTs were classified as benign, borderline and malignant, according to location, size, mitotic activity and clinical outcome. RESULTS: Benign (three) and borderline (five) GISTs were all spindle cell type; malignant GISTs included five spindle cell type and six epithelioid type. Most smears contained abundant cellular material. Benign and borderline GISTs of spindle cell type tended to have cells arranged in tightly cohesive clusters, while malignant GISTs were more likely to exhibit loosely cohesive groups with many single cells, occasional nuclear pleomorphism, hyperchromasia and irregular nuclear contours. Epithelioid-type GISTs mimicked adenocarcinoma. Mitoses were seldom observed in either type. CD117 (KIT protein product) was demonstrated by immunocytochemistry in 9 cases, CD34 in 11, desmin in 3, S-100 protein in 2 and smooth muscle actin in 6 cases CONCLUSION: FNA can be used to diagnose GISTs as spindle cell and epithelioid types, but cytomorphology alone cannot be used to assess malignant potential. Immunocytochemical staining for CD117 is helpful in confirming the diagnosis. Care must be taken to differentiate epithelioid-type GISTs from adenocarcinoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalActa cytologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspiration biopsy
  • Gastrointestinal neoplasms
  • Stromal tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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