Aggressive fibromatosis, also known as desmoid-type fibromatosis (DTF) or desmoid tumor, is an uncommon locally invasive tumor. Because of its low incidence and variable behavior, DTF is often first seen by physicians who are not familiar with it, and recent advances in understanding this disease have led to changes in treatment approaches. The Wnt (β-catenin) pathway appears to play a key role in DTF pathogenesis, and recent studies of DTF biology suggest a possible model of DTF pathogenesis. Histologically, DTF shows a poorly circumscribed proliferation of myofibroblast-like cells with variable collagen deposition, similar to the proliferative phase of wound healing, and DTF has been associated with trauma and pregnancy. Desmoid-type fibromatosis may be a useful model of the tumor stroma in carcinomas as well as other fibrosing diseases such as progressive pulmonary fibrosis. The clinical course of DTF can vary greatly among patients, complicating the determination of the optimal treatment approach. Treatment options include surgery, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with or without hormonal manipulation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other forms of local therapy. Many treatments have been used, but these are not without toxicities. Because of the variable nature of the disease and the potential morbidity of treatment, some cases of DTF may do better without treatment; simple observation is often the best initial treatment. This review used a PubMed search from January 1, 1980, through October 31, 2016, using the terms fibromatosis and desmoid and discusses DTF disease characteristics, pathophysiology, and treatment options as well as examines several cases illustrating key points in the biology and treatment of this heterogeneous disease.
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