Background: Medulloblastomas are small cell embryonal tumors of the cerebellum found predominantly in children, only slightly more than half of whom survive. Predicting favorable outcome has been difficult, and improved stratification clearly is required to avoid both undertreatment and overtreatment. Patients currently are staged clinically, but no pathologic staging system is in use. Two rare subtypes at extreme ends of the histologic spectrum, i.e., medulloblastomas with extensive nodularity and large cell/anaplastic medulloblastomas, are associated with better and worse clinical outcomes, respectively. However, there is little data about correlations between histologic features and clinical outcome for most patients with medulloblastomas that fall between these histologic extremes of nodularity and anaplasia. Therefore, the authors evaluated the clinical effects of increasing anaplasia and nodularity in a large group of children with medulloblastomas, hypothesizing that increasing nodularity would predict better clinical outcomes and that increasing anaplasia would presage less favorable results.
Methods: Medulloblastomas from 330 Pediatric Oncology Group patients were evaluated histologically with respect to extent of nodularity, presence of desmoplasia, grade of anaplasia, and extent of anaplasia. Pathologic and clinical data were then compared using Kaplan-Meier and log-rank analyses.
Results: Increasing grade of anaplasia and extent of anaplasia were associated strongly with progressively worse clinical outcomes (P < 0.0001 for both). Significant anaplasia (moderate or severe) was identified in 24% of medulloblastoma specimens. Neither increasing degrees of nodularity nor desmoplasia were associated significantly with longer survival.
Conclusions: Moderate anaplasia and severe anaplasia were associated with aggressive clinical behavior in patients with medulloblastomas and were detected in a significant number of specimens (24%). Pathologic grading of medulloblastomas with respect to anaplasia may be of clinical utility.