Sarcomas account for less than 10% of all human malignancies that are believed to originate from as yet poorly defined mesenchymal progenitor cells. They constitute some of the most aggressive adult and childhood cancers in that they have a high metastatic proclivity and are typically refractory to conventional chemo- and radiation therapy. Ewing's sarcoma is a member of Ewing's family tumors (ESFT) and the second most common solid bone and soft tissue malignancy of children and young adults. It is associated in 85% of cases with the t(11;22)(q24:q12) chromosomal translocation that generates fusion of the 5′ segment of the EWS gene with the 3′ segment of the ETS family gene FLI-1. The resulting EWS-FLI-1 fusion protein is believed to behave as an aberrant transcriptional activator that contributes to ESFT development by altering the expression of its target genes in a permissive cellular environment. Although ESFTs are among the best studied sarcomas, the mechanisms involved in EWS-FLI-1-induced transformation require further elucidation and the primary cells from which ESFTs originate need to be identified. This review will highlight some of the most recent discoveries in the field of Ewing sarcoma biology and origins. © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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