Giant cell tumor of bone
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Synonyms and Keywords: Osteoclastoma; Giant cell myeloma; Giant cell tumor; Giant cell tumor of the bone
Giant cell tumor of bone is a relatively uncommon tumor of the bone. It is characterized by the presence of multinucleated giant cells (osteoclast-like cells). Giant cell tumor of bone accounts for 4-5% of primary bone tumors and 18.2% of benign bone tumors. Giant cell tumor of bone almost invariably (97-99%) occur when the growth plate has closed and are therefore typically observed in early adulthood, with 80% of cases reported between the ages of 20 and 50, with a peak incidence between 20 and 30. Giant cell tumor of bone typically occur as single lesions. They usually prefers the epiphyses of long bones. Although any bone can be affected, the most common sites are distal femur, proximal tibia, and distal radius. The progression to giant cell tumor of bone usually involves the over-expression in RANK/RANKL signalling pathway with resultant over-proliferation of osteoclasts. On gross pathology, hemorrhage, presence of co-existent aneurysmal bone cyst, and fibrosis are characteristic findings of giant cell tumor of bone. On microscopic histopathological analysis, prominent and diffuse osteoclastic giant cells and mononuclear cells with frequent mitotic figures are characteristic findings of giant cell tumor of bone. Symptoms of giant cell tumor of bone include localized pain, localized swelling, and decreased range of motion. Physical examination findings will depend on the location of the giant cell tumor. Common physical examination findings of giant cell tumor are localized swelling and tenderness at the site of the tumor. Giant cell tumor of bone must be differentiated from aneurysmal bone cyst, chondroblastoma, simple bone cyst, osteoid osteoma, osteoblastoma, osteosarcoma, and brown tumor of hyperparathyroidism. X-ray may be helpful in the diagnosis of giant cell tumor of bone. Common complications of giant cell tumor include malignant transformation, recurrence, and metastasis. Findings on x-ray suggestive of giant cell tumor include metaepiphyseal location of mass and grow to the articular surface of the involved bone with narrow zone of transition. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for giant cell tumor.
The progression to giant cell tumor of bone usually involves the over-expression in RANK/RANKL signalling pathway with resultant over-proliferation of osteoclasts.
Giant cell tumor of bone typically occur as single lesions. They usually prefers the epiphyses of long bones. Although any bone can be affected, the most common sites are: 
- Around the knee: distal femur and proximal tibia: 50-65%
- Distal radius: 10-12%
- Sacrum: 4-9%
- Vertebral body
- Multiple locations: 1%
- Macroscopically, giant cell tumors are variable in appearance, depending on amount of hemorrhage, presence of co-existent aneurysmal bone cyst, and degree of presence fibrosis.
- Giant cell tumor of bone is characterized by the presence of numerous Cathepsin-K producing, CD33 +, CD14 - multinucleated osteoclast-like giant cells and plump spindle-shaped stromal cells that represent the main proliferating cell population.
- The spindle-shaped mononuclear cells are believed to represent the neoplastic population and are characterized at the cytogenetic level by telomeric associations and a peculiar telomere-protecting capping mechanism.
- Areas of regressive change such as necrosis or fibrosis as well as extensive hemorrhage are frequently present.
- Frequent mitotic figures in the mononuclear cells may be observed, especially in pregnant women or those on the oral contraceptive pill (due to increased hormone levels).
Epidemiology and Demographics
- Giant cell tumor of bone accounts for 4-5% of primary bone tumors and 18.2% of benign bone tumors.
- Giant cell tumor of bone almost invariably (97-99%) occur when the growth plate has closed and are therefore typically observed in early adulthood, with 80% of cases reported between the ages of 20 and 50, with a peak incidence between 20 and 30.
- Giant cell tumor of bone is more common in females with the rate of growth enhanced in pregnancy. Female to male ratio 1.5:1.
Differentiating Giant cell tumor of bone from other Diseases
Giant cell tumor of bone must be differentiated from:
- Aneurysmal bone cyst
- Simple bone cyst
- Osteoid osteoma
- Giant cell reparative granuloma
- Brown tumor of hyperparathyroidism
- Non-ossifying fibroma
Natural History, Complications and Prognosis
Common complications of giant cell tumor include:
- Malignant transformation
- Malignant transformation is far more common in men (M:F of ~3:1)
- Sarcomatous transformation is observed, especially in radiotherapy treated inoperable tumors.
- Giant cell tumor of bone may occasionally metastasize to vital organs such as the lung. Hence, this entity has been called benign metastasising giant cell tumor.
- The prognosis of giant cell tumor is generally excellent.
History and Symptoms
- Patients usually present with pain and limited range of motion caused by tumor's proximity to the joint space.
- There may be swelling as well, if the tumor has been growing for a long time.
- Some patients may be asymptomatic until they develop a pathologic fracture at the site of the tumor.
Physical examination findings will depend on the location of the giant cell tumor. Most giant cell tumors are located in the long bone of extremities.
A palpable firm non tender or tender mass may be appreciated on physical examination. The assessment of giant cell tumor during physical examination include:
X-ray may be helpful in the diagnosis of giant cell tumor of bone. Findings on x-ray suggestive of giant cell tumor include:
- Metaphyseal location and grow to the articular surface of the involved bone
- Narrow zone of transition: a broader zone of transition is observed in more aggressive giant cell tumors
- No surrounding sclerosis: 80-85%
- Overlying cortex is thinned, expanded or deficient
- Periosteal reaction is only observed in 10-30% of cases
- Soft tissue mass is not infrequent
- Pathological fracture may be present
- No matrix calcification/mineralisation
(Images courtesy of RadsWiki)
Typical signal characteristics on MRI of giant cell tumor of bone include:
T1 C+ (Gd):
- Solid components will enhance, helping differentiate from aneurysmal bone cyst
Scintigraphy: Bone Scan
- Most giant cell tumors demonstrate increased uptake on delayed images, especially around the periphery, with a central photopenic region (doughnut sign).
- Increased blood pool activity is also observed, and can be observed in adjacent bones due to generalised regional hyperaemia.
The treatment of giant cell tumor is directed towards local control without sacrificing joint function. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for giant cell tumor.
- Classically, treatment is with curettage and packing with bone chips or polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA).
- Local recurrence is from the periphery of the lesion and has historically occurred in up to 40-60% of cases.
- Newer intraoperative adjuncts such as thermal or chemical treatment of the resection margins have lowered the recurrence rate to 2.5-10%.
- Wide local excision is associated with a lower recurrence rate, but has greater morbidity.
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- Giant cell tumor of bone.Dr Henry Knipe and Dr Behrang Amini et al.Radiopaedia.org 2015.http://radiopaedia.org/articles/giant-cell-tumour-of-bone.Accessed on March 11, 2016
- Murphey MD, Nomikos GC, Flemming DJ, Gannon FH, Temple HT, Kransdorf MJ (2001). "From the archives of AFIP. Imaging of giant cell tumor and giant cell reparative granuloma of bone: radiologic-pathologic correlation". Radiographics : a Review Publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. 21 (5): 1283–309. PMID 11553835. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
- Shrivastava, Sandeep; Nawghare, Shishir P; Kolwadkar, Yogesh; Singh, Pradeep (2008). "Giant cell tumour in the diaphysis of radius – a report". Cases Journal. 1 (1): 106. ISSN 1757-1626. doi:10.1186/1757-1626-1-106.
- Muheremu, Aikeremujiang; Niu, Xiaohui (2014). "Pulmonary metastasis of giant cell tumor of bones". World Journal of Surgical Oncology. 12 (1): 261. ISSN 1477-7819. doi:10.1186/1477-7819-12-261.
- Puri, Ajay; Agarwal, Manish (2007). "Treatment of giant cell tumor of bone: Current concepts". Indian Journal of Orthopaedics. 41 (2): 101. ISSN 0019-5413. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.32039.