2021-12-01   David Papke 

1.Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA



Angiosarcoma comprises a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of malignant vascular neoplasms. "Primary" angiosarcomas occur de novo, while "secondary" angiosarcomas occur in association with radiation or lymphedema.

Clinics and Pathology


Angiosarcoma occurs across a wide age distribution and is most common in the elderly.1 Cutaneous angiosarcoma of the breast is frequently associated with prior radiation, and angiosarcoma can also arise in association with lymphedema or in pre-existing vascular malformations.

Clinical features

Angiosarcoma has distinct presentations that depend on clinical context. De novo cutaneous angiosarcoma tends to arise on the scalp of elderly patients in regions of sun damage.2 The incidence of radiation-associated cutaneous angiosarcoma has increased with the widespread adoption of breast-conserving surgery with post-operative radiation to treat breast carcinoma.3 Angiosarcomas of deep soft tissue and viscera are relatively uncommon and occur in a wide age range, with a peak incidence in the 7th decade and with a male predominance.4


Angiosarcomas are morphologically variable, and they are usually highly infiltrative. On the most well differentiated end of the spectrum, tumors exhibit only mild nuclear atypia, in which case the diagnosis is made based on infiltrative growth and endothelial multilayering. More poorly differentiated tumors can show sheet-like growth of tumor cells with significant nuclear atypia and necrosis. Nuclear pleomorphism is uncommon. Angiosarcoma is not graded because even bland-appearing tumors follow an aggressive clinical course.


Angiosarcoma variably expresses vascular proteins such as CD31, CD34, and ERG. Radiation-associated angiosarcoma exhibits nuclear MYC positivity in essentially all cases (Fig. 1); thus, MYC immunohistochemistry is very helpful to distinguish radiation-associated angiosarcoma from atypical post-radiation vascular proliferation, the latter of which is uniformly negative for MYC expression.5,6

Figure 1. MYC expression in radiation-associated angiosarcoma. Immunohistochemistry demonstrates nuclear MYC expression in essentially all radiation-associated angiosarcoma, while it is negative in atypical post-radiation vascular proliferation.



• Radiation- and lymphedema-associated angiosarcomas nearly always harbor MYC amplification (Fig. 2), which is rare in primary angiosarcoma.9 FLT4 co-amplification is present in about 25% of these secondary angiosarcomas (Fig. 2).6

• Fluorescence in situ hybridization for MYC amplification is highly sensitive and specific in distinguishing radiation-associated angiosarcoma from atypical post-radiation vascular proliferation.10

• Angiosarcoma classically had been reported to exhibit complex karyotypes, primarily based on isolated case reports;11 however, a recent study demonstrated the presence of complex copy number gains and losses in only 25% of tumors.12

• Genes such as KDR, FLT4, PTPRB, and PLCG1, which are involved in the signaling cascade that regulates angiogenesis, are mutated or upregulated in both primary and secondary angiosarcomas.6,13,14

FLT4 amplification occurs in the setting of MYC amplification and is mutually exclusive with PLCG1 or KDR mutations.8

CIC rearrangements and mutations are present in about 10% of primary angiosarcomas and are associated with epithelioid morphology and young patient age.8

Figure 2. MYC and FLT4 co-amplification in radiation-associated angiosarcoma. MYC (red probe} is amplified in essentially all radiation-associated angiosarcomas, and FLT4 (green probe) is co-amplified in about 25%. This image is provide courtesy of Dr. Cristina Antonescu (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, NY, USA).


Prognosis and treatment

Cutaneous angiosarcoma of the elderly follows an aggressive clinical course, with patients rapidly developing multiple lesions in the same anatomic region; this form of angiosarcoma is usually initially sensitive to chemotherapy but invariably relapses with chemoresistance, and a dismal prognosis.7 Overall, the median survival of primary cutaneous angiosarcoma is about 3 years.2 Angiosarcoma of soft tissue is very aggressive, with approximately half of patients developing distant metastases, and with a median survival rate of about 1 year.4 Angiosarcoma with CIC rearrangement is also aggressive, with a 5-year survival rate of about 45%.8


Reference NumberPubmed IDLast YearTitleAuthors
1170138932006Incidence patterns of soft tissue sarcomas, regardless of primary site, in the surveillance, epidemiology and end results program, 1978-2001: An analysis of 26,758 cases.Toro JR et al
2320439192020Patterns of Care and Survival of Cutaneous Angiosarcoma of the Head and Neck.Chang C et al
3157304572005Risk of angiosarcoma following breast conservation: a clinical alert.West JG et al
496301751998Angiosarcoma of soft tissue: a study of 80 cases.Meis-Kindblom JM et al
5219090812012Postradiation cutaneous angiosarcoma after treatment of breast carcinoma is characterized by MYC amplification in contrast to atypical vascular lesions after radiotherapy and control cases: clinicopathological, immunohistochemical and molecular analysis of 66 cases.Mentzel T et al
6209495682011Consistent MYC and FLT4 gene amplification in radiation-induced angiosarcoma but not in other radiation-associated atypical vascular lesions.Guo T et al
7326604392020A single-arm confirmatory trial of pazopanib in patients with paclitaxel-pretreated primary cutaneous angiosarcoma: Japan Clinical Oncology Group study (JCOG1605, JCOG-PCAS protocol).Oashi K et al
8267358592016Recurrent CIC Gene Abnormalities in Angiosarcomas: A Molecular Study of 120 Cases With Concurrent Investigation of PLCG1, KDR, MYC, and FLT4 Gene Alterations.Huang SC et al
9200081402010MYC high level gene amplification is a distinctive feature of angiosarcomas after irradiation or chronic lymphedema.Manner J et al
10331284742021MYC gene amplification by fluorescence in situ hybridization and MYC protein expression by immunohistochemistry in the diagnosis of cutaneous angiosarcoma: Systematic review and appropriate use criteria.Motaparthi K et al
11314637312020What is new in endothelial neoplasia?Papke DJ Jr et al
12252314392015Array CGH analysis identifies two distinct subgroups of primary angiosarcoma of bone.Verbeke SL et al
13197236552009KDR activating mutations in human angiosarcomas are sensitive to specific kinase inhibitors.Antonescu CR et al
14246331572014Recurrent PTPRB and PLCG1 mutations in angiosarcoma.Behjati S et al

External Links


David Papke


Atlas Genet Cytogenet Oncol Haematol. 2021-12-01

Online version: