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Ependymoma is a type of brain tumor that may arise in the ventricles of the brain or in the spinal cord. It is also called an ependymal tumor. Learn about ependymoma and find information on how we support and care for children and teens with ependymoma before, during, and after treatment.
The Brain Tumor Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center cares for children with many different types of common and rare brain and spinal tumors, including astrocytomas, medulloblastomas, ependymoma, glioblastomas, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET).
Your child will receive care from some of the world’s most experienced pediatric brain tumor doctors and internationally recognized pediatric subspecialists.
Our team works closely together to develop a care plan that offers your child the highest possible quality of life after treatment, and takes the needs of your child and your family into account.
Children treated at the Brain Tumor Center have access to some of the most advanced diagnostics and therapies, including:
Thanks to refined surgical techniques and improved chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the majority of children with brain and spinal cord tumors are now long-term survivors. However, they may face physical, social, and intellectual challenges that require specialized care.
Learn more about our Brain Tumor Center.
The brain controls vital functions such as memory and learning, emotion, and the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch). The spinal cord is made up of bundles of nervefibers that connect the brain with nerves in most parts of the body.
Ependymomas form from ependymal cells that line the ventricles and passageways in the brain and the spinal cord. Ependymal cells make cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
This summary is about the treatment of primary brain tumors (tumors that begin in the brain). Treatment of metastatic brain tumors, which are tumors that begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain, is not discussed in this summary.
There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors can occur in both children and adults. However, treatment for children is different than treatment for adults. See the following PDQ summaries for more information:
The World Health Organization (WHO) groups ependymal tumors into four main subtypes:
The grade of a tumor describes how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. Low-grade (Grade I) cancer cells look more like normal cells and tend to grow and spread more slowly than high-grade (Grade III) cancer cells.
Ependymomas can form anywhere in the fluid-filled ventricles and passageways in the brain and spinal cord. Most ependymomas form in the fourth ventricle and affect the cerebellum and the brain stem.
Once an ependymoma forms, areas of the brain that may be affected include:
Signs and symptoms depend on the following:
Signs and symptoms may be caused by childhood ependymoma or by other conditions. Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
If the diagnostic tests show there may be a brain tumor, a biopsy is done by removing part of the skull and using a needle to remove a sample of the brain tissue. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor will remove as much tumor as safely possible during the same surgery.
The following test may be done on the tissue that was removed:
An MRI is often done after the tumor is removed to find out whether any tumor remains.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on:
Prognosis also depends on the type and dose of radiation therapy that is given.
Staging is the process used to find out how much cancer there is and if cancer has spread. There is no standard staging system for childhood ependymoma. Treatment is based on where the cancer is in the body and the age of the child.
Some of the tests used to detect childhood ependymoma are repeated after the tumor is removed by surgery. (See the General Information section.) This is to find out how much tumor remains after surgery.
Recurrent childhood ependymoma is a tumor that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. Childhood ependymoma commonly recurs, usually at the original cancer site. The tumor may come back as long as 15 years or more after initial treatment.
Different types of treatment are available for children with ependymoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other pediatrichealth care providers who are experts in treating children with brain tumors and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:
Childhood brain and spinal cordtumors may cause signs or symptoms that continue for months or years. Signs or symptoms caused by the tumor may begin before diagnosis. Signs or symptoms caused by treatment may begin during or right after treatment.
These are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include the following:
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important to talk with your child's doctors about the effects cancer treatment can have on your child. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information).
If the results of diagnostic tests show there may be a brain tumor, a biopsy is done by removing part of the skull and using a needle to remove a sample of the brain tissue. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor will remove as much tumor as safely possible during the same surgery.
An MRI is often done after the tumor is removed to find out whether any tumor remains. If tumor remains, a second surgery to remove as much of the remaining tumor as possible may be done.
Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back after surgery is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type of cancer being treated. Childhood ependymoma may be treated with fractionated radiation therapy, which divides the total dose of radiation into several smaller, equal doses delivered over a number of days.
External radiation therapy can be given in different ways:
Children younger than 3 years who receive radiation therapy to the brain have a higher risk of problems with growth and development than older children. 3D conformal radiation therapy and proton-beam therapy are being studied in children younger than 3 years to see if the effects of radiation on growth and development are lessened.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type of cancer being treated.
Observation is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change. Observation may be used to treat a child with a subependymoma who has no symptoms and whose tumor is found while treating another condition.
Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.
Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.
Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.
Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. See the Treatment Options section that follows for links to current treatment clinical trials. These have been retrieved from NCI's listing of clinical trials.
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging.
Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your child's condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.
Follow-up tests for childhood ependymoma include an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain and spinal cord every 3 months for the first 1 or 2 years after treatment. After 2 years, MRIs may be done every 6 months for the next 3 years.
A child with a newly diagnosedependymoma has not had treatment for the tumor. The child may have had treatment to relieve signs or symptoms caused by the tumor.
Treatment of newly diagnosed subependymoma (WHO Grade I) is:
Treatment of newly diagnosed myxopapillary ependymoma (WHO Grade I) is:
Treatment of newly diagnosed childhood ependymoma (WHO Grade II) or anaplastic ependymoma (WHO Grade III) is:
After surgery, the plan for further treatment depends on the following:
When the tumor is completely removed and cancer cells have not spread, treatment may include the following:
When part of the tumor remains after surgery, but cancer cells have not spread, treatment may include the following:
When cancer cells have spread within the brain and spinal cord, treatment may include the following:
Treatment for children younger than 3 years of age may include the following:
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with newly diagnosed childhood ependymoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Treatment of recurrent childhood ependymoma may include the following:
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent childhood ependymoma. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your child's doctor about clinical trials that may be right for your child. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
For more information about childhood brain tumors, see the following
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
This information is provided by the National Cancer Institute.
This information was last updated on September 2, 2014.
The PDQ childhood brain tumor treatment summaries are organized primarily according to the World Health Organization (WHO) classification of nervous system tumors. For a full description of the classification of nervous system tumors and a link to the corresponding treatment summary for each type of brain tumor, refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview.
Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50%. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up because cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for specific information about the incidence, type, and monitoring of late effects in childhood and adolescent cancer survivors.)
Primary brain tumors are a diverse group of diseases that together constitute the most common solid tumor of childhood. Immunohistochemical analysis, cytogenetic and molecular genetic findings, and measures of mitotic activity are increasingly used in tumor diagnosis and classification. Brain tumors are classified according to histology, but tumor location and extent of spread are important factors that affect treatment and prognosis.
Ependymomas arise from ependymal cells that line the ventricles and passageways in the brain and the center of the spinal cord. Ependymal cells produce cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). These tumors are classified as supratentorial or infratentorial. In children, most ependymomas are infratentorial tumors that arise in or around the fourth ventricle. According to the WHO classification of brain tumors, ependymal tumors are classified into the following four main subtypes:
The location of the tumor determines the clinical presentation. Treatment begins with surgery. The type of adjuvant therapy given, such as a second surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, depends on the following:
Childhood ependymoma comprises approximately 9% of all childhood brain tumors, representing about 200 cases per year in the United States.
The clinical presentation of ependymoma is dependent on tumor location.
Every patient suspected of having ependymoma should be
evaluated with diagnostic imaging of the whole brain and spinal cord. The most
sensitive method available for evaluating spinal cord subarachnoid metastasis
is spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed with gadolinium. This is ideally done before surgery to avoid confusion with postoperative blood. If MRI
is used, the entire spine is generally imaged in at least two planes with contiguous
MRI slices performed after gadolinium enhancement. If feasible, CSF cytological evaluation should be conducted.
Unfavorable factors affecting outcome (except as noted) include the following:
Posterior fossa ependymoma can be divided into the following two groups based on distinctive patterns of gene expression.
Other factors that have been reported to be associated with poor prognosis for pediatric ependymoma include expression of the enzymatic subunit of telomerase (hTERT)  and expression of the neural stem cell marker Nestin.[Level of evidence: 3iiiA]
Surveillance neuroimaging, coupled with clinical assessments, are generally recommended after treatment for ependymoma. The frequency and duration have been arbitrarily determined and the utility is uncertain. Most practitioners obtain MRI imaging of the brain and/or spinal cord every 3 months for the first 1 to 2 years after treatment. After 2 years, imaging every 6 months for the next 3 years is often undertaken.
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Moreno L, Pollack IF, Duffner PK, et al.: Utility of cerebrospinal fluid cytology in newly diagnosed childhood ependymoma. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 32 (6): 515-8, 2010.
Mendrzyk F, Korshunov A, Benner A, et al.: Identification of gains on 1q and epidermal growth factor receptor overexpression as independent prognostic markers in intracranial ependymoma. Clin Cancer Res 12 (7 Pt 1): 2070-9, 2006.
Korshunov A, Witt H, Hielscher T, et al.: Molecular staging of intracranial ependymoma in children and adults. J Clin Oncol 28 (19): 3182-90, 2010.
Kilday JP, Mitra B, Domerg C, et al.: Copy number gain of 1q25 predicts poor progression-free survival for pediatric intracranial ependymomas and enables patient risk stratification: a prospective European clinical trial cohort analysis on behalf of the Children's Cancer Leukaemia Group (CCLG), Societe Francaise d'Oncologie Pediatrique (SFOP), and International Society for Pediatric Oncology (SIOP). Clin Cancer Res 18 (7): 2001-11, 2012.
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Wani K, Armstrong TS, Vera-Bolanos E, et al.: A prognostic gene expression signature in infratentorial ependymoma. Acta Neuropathol 123 (5): 727-38, 2012.
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Tabori U, Ma J, Carter M, et al.: Human telomere reverse transcriptase expression predicts progression and survival in pediatric intracranial ependymoma. J Clin Oncol 24 (10): 1522-8, 2006.
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Milde T, Hielscher T, Witt H, et al.: Nestin expression identifies ependymoma patients with poor outcome. Brain Pathol 22 (6): 848-60, 2012.
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In the most recent World Health Organization (WHO) classification of brain tumors, ependymal tumors are classified into the following four main subtypes:
The true incidence of subependymomas (WHO Grade I) is difficult to determine. These tumors are frequently asymptomatic and may be found incidentally at autopsy. Subependymomas probably comprise less than 5% of all ependymal tumors.
In children, approximately 65% to 75% of ependymomas arise in the posterior fossa. Although supratentorial and infratentorial ependymomas are believed to arise from radial glia cells, they have different genomic, gene expression, and immunohistochemical signatures. Supratentorial tumors are more often characterized by neuronal differentiation.
Subependymomas and myxopapillary ependymomas are usually considered to be clinically and pathologically distinct from the Grade II and Grade III ependymomas. In Grade II and Grade III ependymomas, the relationship between histological features and survival has varied among studies, although most recent larger studies and meta-analyses have demonstrated that histological grade is an independent predictor of event-free survival. A single-institution study suggests that patients with clear-cell ependymomas may have a higher risk of treatment failure than do patients with other forms of WHO Grade II ependymomas; however, confirmation is required in a larger group of unselected patients.
Ependymoblastomas, which generally
behave more like medulloblastomas or cerebral neuroectodermal tumors, are
considered separate entities from ependymomas and are now classified with the embryonal tumors. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Central Nervous System Embryonal Tumors Treatment for more information.)
classification of pediatric brain tumors is a specialized area that is
evolving; review of the diagnostic tissue by a neuropathologist who
has particular expertise in this area is strongly recommended.
Taylor MD, Poppleton H, Fuller C, et al.: Radial glia cells are candidate stem cells of ependymoma. Cancer Cell 8 (4): 323-35, 2005.
Grill J, Bergthold G, Ferreira C: Pediatric ependymomas: will molecular biology change patient management? Curr Opin Oncol 23 (6): 638-42, 2011.
Shu HK, Sall WF, Maity A, et al.: Childhood intracranial ependymoma: twenty-year experience from a single institution. Cancer 110 (2): 432-41, 2007.
Fouladi M, Helton K, Dalton J, et al.: Clear cell ependymoma: a clinicopathologic and radiographic analysis of 10 patients. Cancer 98 (10): 2232-44, 2003.
Although there is no formal staging system, ependymomas can be divided into
supratentorial, infratentorial, and spinal tumors. Approximately 30% of childhood ependymomas arise in supratentorial regions of the brain and 70% arise in the posterior fossa. They usually originate in the
ependymal linings of ventricles or central canal or ventriculus terminalis of the spinal cord and have access to the cerebrospinal fluid. Therefore, these tumors may
spread throughout the neuraxis, although dissemination is noted in less than 10% of patients with Grade II and Grade III ependymomas. Myxopapillary ependymomas are more likely to disseminate to the nervous system early in the course of illness.
Villano JL, Parker CK, Dolecek TA: Descriptive epidemiology of ependymal tumours in the United States. Br J Cancer 108 (11): 2367-71, 2013.
Many of the improvements in survival in childhood cancer have been made as a
result of clinical trials that have attempted to improve on the best available,
accepted therapy. Clinical trials in pediatrics are designed to compare new
therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. This comparison
may be done in a randomized study of two treatment arms or by evaluating a single
new treatment and comparing the results with those previously obtained with
Because of the relative rarity of cancer in children, all patients with aggressive brain
tumors should be considered for entry into a clinical trial. To determine and
implement optimum treatment, treatment planning by a multidisciplinary team of
cancer specialists who have experience treating childhood brain tumors is
required. Radiation therapy of pediatric brain tumors is technically demanding and should be performed in centers that have experience in that
area to ensure optimal results.
Stage and/or Histopathologic Classification
Standard Treatment Options
Newly diagnosed childhood subependymoma
Observation (in rare cases)
Newly diagnosed childhood myxopapillary ependymoma
Surgery with or without radiation therapy
Newly diagnosed childhood ependymoma (WHO Grade II) or anaplastic ependymoma (WHO Grade III):
No residual disease, no disseminated disease
Residual disease, no disseminated disease
Central nervous system disseminated disease
Children younger than 3 years
Recurrent childhood ependymoma
Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy
The standard treatment options for newly diagnosed subependymoma (WHO Grade I) include the following:
In cases requiring therapy, complete surgical removal is often curative. Some subependymomas are considered incidental findings and observed without intervention.
Occasionally, subependymomas cause ventricular obstruction and, in these cases, ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement is indicated. Spontaneous intratumoral hemorrhage has also been observed.
Waldron JS, Tihan T: Epidemiology and pathology of intraventricular tumors. Neurosurg Clin N Am 14 (4): 469-82, 2003.
Myxopapillary ependymomas, considered to be a histologic subtype of ependymoma, have a relatively high incidence of central nervous system tumor dissemination at diagnosis and at follow-up. Imaging of the complete craniospinal axis at the time of diagnosis and during follow-up is indicated.
Standard treatment options for newly diagnosed myxopapillary ependymoma (WHO Grade I) include the following:
Historically, the management of myxopapillary ependymoma (WHO Grade I) consisted of an attempt at en bloc resection of the tumor with no further treatment in the case of a gross-total resection.; [Level of evidence: 3iiiDi] However, based on the finding that dissemination of these tumors to other parts of the neuraxis can occur, particularly when complete resection is not obtained, and evidence that focal radiation therapy may improve progression-free survival, many practitioners now favor the use of radiation therapy after surgical resection of the primary mass.; [Level of evidence: 3iiiDi]; [Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]
Fassett DR, Pingree J, Kestle JR: The high incidence of tumor dissemination in myxopapillary ependymoma in pediatric patients. Report of five cases and review of the literature. J Neurosurg 102 (1 Suppl): 59-64, 2005.
Bagley CA, Kothbauer KF, Wilson S, et al.: Resection of myxopapillary ependymomas in children. J Neurosurg 106 (4 Suppl): 261-7, 2007.
Akyurek S, Chang EL, Yu TK, et al.: Spinal myxopapillary ependymoma outcomes in patients treated with surgery and radiotherapy at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. J Neurooncol 80 (2): 177-83, 2006.
Bagley CA, Wilson S, Kothbauer KF, et al.: Long term outcomes following surgical resection of myxopapillary ependymomas. Neurosurg Rev 32 (3): 321-34; discussion 334, 2009.
Pica A, Miller R, Villà S, et al.: The results of surgery, with or without radiotherapy, for primary spinal myxopapillary ependymoma: a retrospective study from the rare cancer network. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 74 (4): 1114-20, 2009.
Agbahiwe HC, Wharam M, Batra S, et al.: Management of pediatric myxopapillary ependymoma: the role of adjuvant radiation. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 85 (2): 421-7, 2013.
Jeibmann A, Egensperger R, Kuchelmeister K, et al.: Extent of surgical resection but not myxopapillary versus classical histopathological subtype affects prognosis in lumbo-sacral ependymomas. Histopathology 54 (2): 260-2, 2009.
Standard treatment options for newly diagnosed ependymoma (WHO Grade II) or anaplastic ependymoma (WHO Grade III) include the following:
Typically, all patients undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Whether additional treatment is given depends on the extent of tumor resection and whether there is disseminated disease.
Surgery should be
performed in an attempt at maximal tumor reduction. Evidence suggests that more extensive surgical resection is related to an improved rate of survival.; [Level of evidence: 3iDii] Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be performed postoperatively to confirm the extent of resection. If not performed preoperatively, MRI of the entire neuraxis to evaluate disease dissemination and cerebrospinal fluid cytopathology should be performed.
Patients with residual tumor or disseminated
disease should be considered at high risk for relapse and should be treated on
protocols specifically designed for them. Those with no evidence of residual
tumor still have an approximate 20% to 40% relapse risk in spite of
postoperative radiation therapy.
Anecdotal experience suggests that surgery alone for completely resected supratentorial nonanaplastic tumors and intradural spinal cord ependymomas may, in select cases, be an appropriate approach to treatment.[Level of evidence: 3iiiDi]; [Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]
The traditional postsurgical treatment for these patients has been radiation
therapy consisting of 54 Gy to 55.8 Gy to the tumor bed for children aged 3 years and older. It is not necessary
to treat the entire CNS (whole brain and spine) because these tumors usually
recur initially at the local site.; [Level of evidence: 3iiiA] When possible, patients should be treated in a
center experienced with the delivery of highly conformal radiation therapy (including intensity-modulated radiation therapy or charged-particle radiation therapy) to pediatric patients with brain tumors.
Evidence (radiation therapy):
Focal radiation therapy has been used in certain cases. In a small series of children with localized ependymoma, surgery alone was compared with adjuvant radiation therapy. Adjuvant radiation therapy appeared to improve PFS, even after adjusting for the extent of resection. In fact, a PFS benefit was observed for patients who received adjuvant radiation therapy after gross-total resection, compared with those who did not receive radiation therapy. Additional research will be necessary to confirm these findings.
Proton-beam radiation therapy (a type of charged-particle radiation therapy) provides a possible advantage for targeting the tumor while avoiding critical normal brain and neuroendocrine tissues, whether the tumor is supratentorial or infratentorial. Seventy children treated with involved-field, proton-beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2000 and 2011 (median age, 33 months; range, 3 months–20 years) had 3-year local control of 83%, PFS of 76%, and overall survival (OS) of 95%, with confirmation that subtotal resection was associated with an inferior outcome. Data demonstrating an advantage in terms of intelligence, adaptive skills, neuroendocrine deficiencies, and other morbidities do not yet show an advantage over other forms of conformal radiation therapy.
There is no evidence to date that adjuvant
chemotherapy, including the use of myeloablative chemotherapy, improves the outcome for patients with totally resected, nondisseminated ependymoma. For this reason, current treatment approaches do not include chemotherapy as a standard component of primary therapy for children with newly diagnosed ependymomas that are completely resected.
A randomized trial evaluating the efficacy of postradiation chemotherapy in children who have had a gross-total resection is underway.
Second-look surgery should be considered because patients who have complete
resections have better disease control. In some cases, further surgery can be undertaken after the initial attempted resection if the pediatric neurosurgeon believes that a gross-total resection could be obtained by an alternate surgical approach to the tumor. In other cases, further up-front surgery is not anticipated to result in a gross-total resection, therefore, adjuvant therapy is initiated with future consideration of second-look surgery.
The rationale for radiation therapy as described in the Treatment options for no residual disease, no disseminated disease subsection above also pertains to the treatment of children with residual, nondisseminated ependymoma. In patients with a subtotal resection, treatment with radiation therapy results in 3-year to 5-year PFS in 30% to 50% of patients, although the outcome for patients with residual tumor within the spinal canal may be better.
One study demonstrated a benefit of preirradiation chemotherapy in children with near-total resection (>90% resection), with outcomes comparable to children achieving a gross-total resection followed by radiation therapy. The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) has completed a study of preirradiation chemotherapy in children with residual disease after up-front surgery to determine whether children treated with chemotherapy can achieve a complete response with chemotherapy or second-look surgery. Results are pending.
There is no evidence that high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue is of any benefit.; [Level of evidence: 2A]
Regardless of the degree of surgical
resection, these patients generally receive radiation therapy to the whole
brain and spine, along with boosts to local disease and bulk areas of
disseminated disease. The traditional local postsurgical radiation doses in
these patients have been 54 Gy to 55.8 Gy. Doses of approximately 36 Gy to
the entire neuraxis (i.e., the whole brain and spine) are also
administered but may be modulated depending on the age of the patient. Boosts
between 41.4 Gy and 50.4 Gy to bulk areas of spinal disease are
administered, with doses depending on the age of the patient and the location
of the tumor. However, there are no contemporary studies published to support this approach.
The role of chemotherapy in the management of children with disseminated ependymoma is unproven.
Children younger than 3 years are
particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of radiation on brain
development.[Level of evidence: 3iiiC] Debilitating effects on growth and neurologic development have
frequently been observed, especially in younger children. Consequently, radiation therapy immediately after surgery in children younger than 3 years
has historically been limited, with attempts to delay its administration through the use of chemotherapy.; [Level of evidence: 2A]
Some, but not all, chemotherapy regimens induce objective responses in children younger than 3 years with newly diagnosed ependymoma. Up to 40% of infants and young children with totally resected disease may achieve long-term survival with chemotherapy alone.[Level of evidence: 2Di]
Because of the known effects of radiation on growth and neurocognitive
development, the use of radiation therapy in children younger than 3 years has been limited.
Conformal radiation approaches, such as 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, that minimize damage to normal brain tissue and charged-particle radiation therapy, such as proton-beam therapy, are under evaluation for infants and children with ependymoma. When analyzing neurologic outcome after treatment of young children with ependymoma, it is important to consider that not all long-term deficits can be ascribed to radiation therapy because deficits may be present in young children before therapy begins. For example, the presence of hydrocephalus at diagnosis is associated with lower intelligence quotient as measured after surgical resection and before administration of radiation therapy.
The recently completed COG protocol (ACNS0121 [NCT00027846]) for children with ependymoma includes children aged 1 year and older. The trial is a prospective evaluation of postoperative radiation therapy. Results are forthcoming.
The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted or is under analysis. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with newly diagnosed childhood ependymoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.
van Veelen-Vincent ML, Pierre-Kahn A, Kalifa C, et al.: Ependymoma in childhood: prognostic factors, extent of surgery, and adjuvant therapy. J Neurosurg 97 (4): 827-35, 2002.
Abdel-Wahab M, Etuk B, Palermo J, et al.: Spinal cord gliomas: A multi-institutional retrospective analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 64 (4): 1060-71, 2006.
Kothbauer KF: Neurosurgical management of intramedullary spinal cord tumors in children. Pediatr Neurosurg 43 (3): 222-35, 2007.
Zacharoulis S, Ji L, Pollack IF, et al.: Metastatic ependymoma: a multi-institutional retrospective analysis of prognostic factors. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (2): 231-5, 2008.
Merchant TE, Li C, Xiong X, et al.: Conformal radiotherapy after surgery for paediatric ependymoma: a prospective study. Lancet Oncol 10 (3): 258-66, 2009.
Cage TA, Clark AJ, Aranda D, et al.: A systematic review of treatment outcomes in pediatric patients with intracranial ependymomas. J Neurosurg Pediatr 11 (6): 673-81, 2013.
Volpp PB, Han K, Kagan AR, et al.: Outcomes in treatment for intradural spinal cord ependymomas. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 69 (4): 1199-204, 2007.
Hukin J, Epstein F, Lefton D, et al.: Treatment of intracranial ependymoma by surgery alone. Pediatr Neurosurg 29 (1): 40-5, 1998.
Little AS, Sheean T, Manoharan R, et al.: The management of completely resected childhood intracranial ependymoma: the argument for observation only. Childs Nerv Syst 25 (3): 281-4, 2009.
Venkatramani R, Dhall G, Patel M, et al.: Supratentorial ependymoma in children: to observe or to treat following gross total resection? Pediatr Blood Cancer 58 (3): 380-3, 2012.
Koshy M, Rich S, Merchant TE, et al.: Post-operative radiation improves survival in children younger than 3 years with intracranial ependymoma. J Neurooncol 105 (3): 583-90, 2011.
Combs SE, Kelter V, Welzel T, et al.: Influence of radiotherapy treatment concept on the outcome of patients with localized ependymomas. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 71 (4): 972-8, 2008.
Schroeder TM, Chintagumpala M, Okcu MF, et al.: Intensity-modulated radiation therapy in childhood ependymoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 71 (4): 987-93, 2008.
Merchant TE, Mulhern RK, Krasin MJ, et al.: Preliminary results from a phase II trial of conformal radiation therapy and evaluation of radiation-related CNS effects for pediatric patients with localized ependymoma. J Clin Oncol 22 (15): 3156-62, 2004.
Landau E, Boop FA, Conklin HM, et al.: Supratentorial ependymoma: disease control, complications, and functional outcomes after irradiation. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 85 (4): e193-9, 2013.
Pejavar S, Polley MY, Rosenberg-Wohl S, et al.: Pediatric intracranial ependymoma: the roles of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. J Neurooncol 106 (2): 367-75, 2012.
Macdonald SM, Sethi R, Lavally B, et al.: Proton radiotherapy for pediatric central nervous system ependymoma: clinical outcomes for 70 patients. Neuro Oncol 15 (11): 1552-9, 2013.
Zacharoulis S, Levy A, Chi SN, et al.: Outcome for young children newly diagnosed with ependymoma, treated with intensive induction chemotherapy followed by myeloablative chemotherapy and autologous stem cell rescue. Pediatr Blood Cancer 49 (1): 34-40, 2007.
Massimino M, Solero CL, Garrè ML, et al.: Second-look surgery for ependymoma: the Italian experience. J Neurosurg Pediatr 8 (3): 246-50, 2011.
Wahab SH, Simpson JR, Michalski JM, et al.: Long term outcome with post-operative radiation therapy for spinal canal ependymoma. J Neurooncol 83 (1): 85-9, 2007.
Garvin JH Jr, Selch MT, Holmes E, et al.: Phase II study of pre-irradiation chemotherapy for childhood intracranial ependymoma. Children's Cancer Group protocol 9942: a report from the Children's Oncology Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 59 (7): 1183-9, 2012.
Grill J, Kalifa C, Doz F, et al.: A high-dose busulfan-thiotepa combination followed by autologous bone marrow transplantation in childhood recurrent ependymoma. A phase-II study. Pediatr Neurosurg 25 (1): 7-12, 1996.
Venkatramani R, Ji L, Lasky J, et al.: Outcome of infants and young children with newly diagnosed ependymoma treated on the "Head Start" III prospective clinical trial. J Neurooncol 113 (2): 285-91, 2013.
Bouffet E, Capra M, Bartels U: Salvage chemotherapy for metastatic and recurrent ependymoma of childhood. Childs Nerv Syst 25 (10): 1293-301, 2009.
von Hoff K, Kieffer V, Habrand JL, et al.: Impairment of intellectual functions after surgery and posterior fossa irradiation in children with ependymoma is related to age and neurologic complications. BMC Cancer 8: 15, 2008.
Packer RJ, Sutton LN, Atkins TE, et al.: A prospective study of cognitive function in children receiving whole-brain radiotherapy and chemotherapy: 2-year results. J Neurosurg 70 (5): 707-13, 1989.
Johnson DL, McCabe MA, Nicholson HS, et al.: Quality of long-term survival in young children with medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 80 (6): 1004-10, 1994.
Packer RJ, Sutton LN, Goldwein JW, et al.: Improved survival with the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in the treatment of medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 74 (3): 433-40, 1991.
Duffner PK, Horowitz ME, Krischer JP, et al.: The treatment of malignant brain tumors in infants and very young children: an update of the Pediatric Oncology Group experience. Neuro-oncol 1 (2): 152-61, 1999.
Duffner PK, Horowitz ME, Krischer JP, et al.: Postoperative chemotherapy and delayed radiation in children less than three years of age with malignant brain tumors. N Engl J Med 328 (24): 1725-31, 1993.
Geyer JR, Sposto R, Jennings M, et al.: Multiagent chemotherapy and deferred radiotherapy in infants with malignant brain tumors: a report from the Children's Cancer Group. J Clin Oncol 23 (30): 7621-31, 2005.
Grill J, Le Deley MC, Gambarelli D, et al.: Postoperative chemotherapy without irradiation for ependymoma in children under 5 years of age: a multicenter trial of the French Society of Pediatric Oncology. J Clin Oncol 19 (5): 1288-96, 2001.
Massimino M, Gandola L, Barra S, et al.: Infant ependymoma in a 10-year AIEOP (Associazione Italiana Ematologia Oncologia Pediatrica) experience with omitted or deferred radiotherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 80 (3): 807-14, 2011.
Grundy RG, Wilne SA, Weston CL, et al.: Primary postoperative chemotherapy without radiotherapy for intracranial ependymoma in children: the UKCCSG/SIOP prospective study. Lancet Oncol 8 (8): 696-705, 2007.
MacDonald SM, Safai S, Trofimov A, et al.: Proton radiotherapy for childhood ependymoma: initial clinical outcomes and dose comparisons. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 71 (4): 979-86, 2008.
Merchant TE, Lee H, Zhu J, et al.: The effects of hydrocephalus on intelligence quotient in children with localized infratentorial ependymoma before and after focal radiation therapy. J Neurosurg 101 (2 Suppl): 159-68, 2004.
Recurrence is not uncommon for all grades of ependymoma
and may develop many years after initial treatment. Late recurrence
beyond 10 to 15 years has been reported. Disease generally recurs at the
primary tumor site, although concomitant neuraxis dissemination may also be seen. Systemic
relapse is extremely rare. At time of relapse, a complete evaluation for
extent of recurrence is indicated for all patients.
The need for further surgical
intervention is individualized based on the following:
In some cases, surgically accessible lesions may be treated alternatively by radiation therapy.
Patients with recurrent ependymomas who have
not previously received radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy should be
considered for treatment with the following modalities:[Level of evidence: 3iiiB]
Regardless of treatment strategy, the prognosis for patients with recurrence is poor. Entry into
studies of novel therapeutic approaches should be considered.
Early-phase therapeutic trials may be available for selected patients. These trials may be available via Children's Oncology Group, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, or other entities. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent childhood ependymoma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
Zacharoulis S, Ashley S, Moreno L, et al.: Treatment and outcome of children with relapsed ependymoma: a multi-institutional retrospective analysis. Childs Nerv Syst 26 (7): 905-11, 2010.
Pollack IF, Gerszten PC, Martinez AJ, et al.: Intracranial ependymomas of childhood: long-term outcome and prognostic factors. Neurosurgery 37 (4): 655-66; discussion 666-7, 1995.
Vanuytsel LJ, Bessell EM, Ashley SE, et al.: Intracranial ependymoma: long-term results of a policy of surgery and radiotherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 23 (2): 313-9, 1992.
Goldwein JW, Corn BW, Finlay JL, et al.: Is craniospinal irradiation required to cure children with malignant (anaplastic) intracranial ependymomas? Cancer 67 (11): 2766-71, 1991.
Merchant TE, Haida T, Wang MH, et al.: Anaplastic ependymoma: treatment of pediatric patients with or without craniospinal radiation therapy. J Neurosurg 86 (6): 943-9, 1997.
Messahel B, Ashley S, Saran F, et al.: Relapsed intracranial ependymoma in children in the UK: patterns of relapse, survival and therapeutic outcome. Eur J Cancer 45 (10): 1815-23, 2009.
Kano H, Yang HC, Kondziolka D, et al.: Stereotactic radiosurgery for pediatric recurrent intracranial ependymomas. J Neurosurg Pediatr 6 (5): 417-23, 2010.
Bouffet E, Hawkins CE, Ballourah W, et al.: Survival benefit for pediatric patients with recurrent ependymoma treated with reirradiation. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 83 (5): 1541-8, 2012.
Merchant TE, Boop FA, Kun LE, et al.: A retrospective study of surgery and reirradiation for recurrent ependymoma. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 71 (1): 87-97, 2008.
Kano H, Niranjan A, Kondziolka D, et al.: Outcome predictors for intracranial ependymoma radiosurgery. Neurosurgery 64 (2): 279-87; discussion 287-8, 2009.
This information was last updated on August 12, 2014.
Many children with cancer receive treatment in the outpatient setting, which allows them to stay in school and continue to develop intellectually and socially. However, returning to school can be an emotional experience; our Back to School Program is designed to ease your child's transition back to the classroom.
Concierge Services is your one-stop place to learn about Dana-Farber programs, services and resources, as well as information on getting around Boston, finding lodging or restaurants, and activities in the area.
The Expressive Arts Therapy program, sponsored by the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, provides adult patients, family members, and caregivers with a variety of options to support well-being during cancer treatment. From live music meditation to painting technique workshops, the program offers a range of creative outlets to suit every interest.
Dana-Farber and Children's Hospital, including parking facilities, are fully accessible to people with disabilities. There are wheelchairs at the main entrance, and security staff can provide personal assistance. We also have many educational materials available in large print and audiotape formats.
The Ethics Consultation Service is available for patients and families who may be facing difficult decisions and choices regarding care. Our goal is to bring together patients, families and health care providers to talk about ethical concerns and help everyone involved arrive at a resolution that is right for all.
Find practical tips and suggestions for individuals caring for a family member or friend with cancer, including creating a caregiving plan, finding community resources, and looking after your own well-being.
Friends' Place provides personal consultations to help cancer patients of all ages cope with changes in physical appearance that result from cancer treatment. Our experienced, compassionate team provides fittings for compression garments or breast prostheses, helps with wigs and other head coverings, and offers make-up and skincare advice.
The Friends' Corner Gift Shop, located on the first floor of the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, offers a wide selection of unique gifts and everyday items for patients, families and staff.
Every year, thousands of patients with cancer from around the world come to Dana-Farber for their care. We provide a wide array of logistical and other services for individuals who live outside the United States.
Dana-Farber provides interpreting services for patients whose first language is not English. Interpreters may be requested for any activity, including registration, booking appointments, attending treatments and exams, support groups, and meetings with doctors and other members of your health care team.
Just for Teens provides programs and activities for teens and young adults with cancer at the Jimmy Fund Clinic and Children's Hospital Boston. We offer activities and events both inside and out of the hospital so that you have creative ways to pass the time and can meet other teens who are going through similar experiences.
Our nutritionists are registered dietitians who can assist you in planning an optimal diet during any stage of your cancer journey, cope with any side effects you may experience, and answer your questions about the latest findings on cancer and nutrition.
The Eleanor and Maxwell Blum Patient and Family Resource Center and its satellite resource rooms are staffed by health care professionals and provide computer stations, books, brochures, videos, and CDs to help you find information and support on a variety of issues about cancer treatment and care.
Patients websites help friends and family members stay up-to-date on their loved ones' condition and write messages of support and encouragement.
The Dana-Farber pharmacy fills prescriptions for all pediatric and adult patients. Our pharmacists are an extension of the patient care team and work closely with your physicians to provide seamless, convenient, safe care.
More than 1,200 Dana-Farber patients and their families have enjoyed free trips to baseball games, theater shows, museums, and other attractions this year through the Recreational Resources program.
The School Liaison Program is for pediatric patients who are diagnosed with or have completed a treatment that involves the central nervous system. We provide consultation about the cognitive late effects of treatment to help parents understand and advocate for their child's learning needs.
Through all stages of cancer treatment and survivorship, our Spiritual Care staff is available 24 hours a day to provide emotional and spiritual support for adults and pediatric patients and family members.
Integrative therapies, also known as complementary therapies, range from acupuncture and massage to nutritional guidance and music therapy. Patients treated at the Zakim Center credit its services with easing nausea, improving circulation, and reducing pain, stress, and anxiety associated with cancer treatment.
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