"Seedling" mesenchymal tumors (gastrointestinal stromal tumors and leiomyomas) are common incidental tumors of the esophagogastric junction

Susan C. Abraham, Alyssa M. Krasinskas, Wayne L. Hofstetter, Stephen G. Swisher, Tsung Teh Wu

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94 Scopus citations


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most common nonepithelial neoplasm of the gastrointestinal tract and show a predilection for the stomach. Most are detected because of symptoms, but some are incidental findings at autopsy or surgery for other reasons. Incidental GISTs tend to be smaller at diagnosis, but even small (<1 cm) GISTs have been shown to harbor activating KIT mutations at rates similar to advanced GISTs. However, the prevalence and characteristics of small GISTs in surgical resections of the esophagogastric junction (EGJ) remains unclear. We studied 150 esophagogastric resections for esophageal or EGJ carcinomas (100 with preoperative chemoradiation and 50 untreated cases) that had been extensively embedded for histologic examination (mean 30 sections/case). Number, size, morphology, and location of all GISTs and leiomyomas were recorded. All potential GISTs were evaluated with CD117 and CD34 immunohistochemistry, and a subset (35) leiomyomas with smooth muscle actin, desmin, and CD117. We found 18 incidental GISTs in 15 of 150 (10%) patients; 3 patients harbored 2 separate lesions. Prevalence of GIST was identical in treated (10 of 100) and untreated (5 of 50) cases. All (100%) showed positivity for both CD117 and CD34 and all were of spindle cell morphology. Lesions ranged from 0.2 to 3.0 mm in size (mean 1.3 mm). Eight (44%) were based in the outer muscularis propria, 7 (39%) in inner muscularis, and 3 (17%) between the muscle layers. The lesions tended to cluster near the EGJ, with 8 (44%) on the gastric side, 9 (50%) on the esophageal side, and 1 (6%) undetermined owing to overlying ulceration. Leiomyomas were even more common than GIST, occurring in 47% of patients (44% of treated and 52% of untreated, P=0.39), with a mean of 3 leiomyomas per patient (range 1 to 13) and mean size of 1.7 mm (range 0.2 to 12 mm). Unlike colorectal leiomyomas, most (91%) EGJ leiomyomas were located in the inner muscularis propria and only rarely (1%) in muscularis mucosa. These results suggest that GIST and leiomyoma are common incidental "seedling" lesions of the EGJ, found in 10% and 47% of patients undergoing surgery for esophageal carcinoma. The common occurrence of microscopic GISTs compared with the rarity of clinically manifest and malignant esophagogastric GISTs suggests that additional genetic or epigenetic alterations must happen for neoplastic progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1629-1635
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Esophagus
  • GIST
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
  • Incidental
  • Leiomyoma
  • Stomach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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