Rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common soft tissue sarcoma of children, is currently classified into the following 4 subtypes: embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, spindle cell/sclerosing rhabdomyosarcoma, and pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma, based on recent molecular genetic knowledge and morphologic features.


To highlight the most recent advances of molecular genetic alterations, and to familiarize pathologists with most recent genotype and phenotype correlation in rhabdomyosarcoma.

Data Sources.—

Data were derived from the World Health Organization Classification of Soft Tissue and Bone Tumors, fifth edition, recently published literature (PubMed), and clinical practice experience.


Current classification has been significantly impacted by genotype and phenotype correlation, especially with PAX-FOXO1 fusion-positive rhabdomyosarcoma versus fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma, and with emergence of 3 distinct new subtypes of spindle cell/sclerosing rhabdomyosarcoma. Although all rhabdomyosarcomas were considered to be a single diagnostic entity in the past, they are now considered to be a group of histologically similar but biologically diverse entities because their clinical behavior and underlying molecular alterations dramatically differ. This review outlines recent molecular genetic developments, corresponding morphologic features, and current challenges faced by pathologists in daily practice.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

This was presented in part at the 6th Annual Chinese American Pathologists Association Diagnostic Course, October 10–11, 2020; virtual.