Review of molecular classification and treatment implications of pediatric brain tumors

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors and leading cause of cancer-related death in children. The advent of large-scale genomics has resulted in a plethora of profiling studies that have mapped the genetic and epigenetic landscapes of pediatric brain tumors, ringing in a new era of precision diagnostics and targeted therapies. In this review, we highlight the most recent findings, focusing on studies published after 2015, and discuss how new evidence is changing the care of children with brain tumors.

Recent findings

Genome-wide and epigenome-wide profiling data have revealed distinct tumor entities within, virtually, all pediatric brain tumor groups including medulloblastoma; ependymoma; high-grade and low-grade gliomas; atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors; and other embryonal tumors, previously called CNS primitive neuroectodermal tumors. Whenever integrated with clinical information, many molecular alterations emerge as powerful prognostic markers and should thus be used to stratify patients and tailor therapies.

Summary

Optimal integration of this newly emerging knowledge in a timely and meaningful way into clinical care is a remarkable task and a matter of active debate. The historical morphology-based classification of tumors is being replaced by a genetic-based classification, and the first generation of molecularly informed clinical trials is underway.

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