High-grade transformation, previously known as dedifferentiation, in salivary gland carcinoma and carcinosarcoma ex pleomorphic adenoma is a rare phenomenon. It is, however, clinically relevant and affects treatment and prognosis.


To review the existing literature, describe the histologic and immunophenotypic features, and highlight the diagnostic criteria of high-grade transformation in various salivary gland carcinomas and carcinosarcoma; to review its effect on clinical presentation and prognosis; and to review relevant molecular characteristics and recent concepts and advances.

Data Sources.—

Literature search in PubMed using key words such as “high-grade transformation,” “dedifferentiation,” and “carcinosarcoma” in salivary gland. Relevant articles were reviewed, and additional articles were curated from the references of these articles.


High-grade transformation occurs rarely but has a significant impact on prognosis and management. By microscopy, the high-grade area is usually a distinct nodule and shows solid and nested architecture, cellular atypia, high mitotic count, and necrosis. The molecular features are not well established. Carcinosarcoma almost always arises in a pleomorphic adenoma and likely follows an adenoma-carcinoma-sarcoma pathway.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Competing Interests

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