Chordomas and chondrosarcomas are two major malignant bone neoplasms located at the skull base. These tumors are rarely metastatic, but can be locally invasive and resistant to conventional chemotherapies and radiotherapies. Accordingly, therapeutic approaches for the treatment of these tumors can be difficult. Additionally, their location at the skull base makes them problematic. Although accurate diagnosis of these tumors is important because of their distinct prognoses, distinguishing between these tumor types is difficult due to overlapping radiological and histopathological findings. However, recent accumulation of molecular and genetic studies, including extracranial location analysis, has provided us clues for accurate diagnosis. In this report, we review the genetic aberrations and molecular biology of these two tumor types. Among the abundant genetic features of these tumors, brachyury immunohistochemistry and direct sequencing of IDH1/2 are simple and useful techniques that can be used to distinguish between these tumors. Although it is still unclear why these tumors, which have such distinct genetic backgrounds, show similar histopathological findings, comparison of their genetic backgrounds could provide essential information.
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