Childhood ependymoma: a systematic review of treatment options and strategies

Paediatr Drugs. 2003;5(8):533-43. doi: 10.2165/00148581-200305080-00004.


Childhood intracranial ependymoma have a dismal prognosis, especially in young children and when a gross total resection cannot be performed. Even in the absence of a radiologically proven residuum, around two-thirds of these young children will have a recurrence. Adjuvant therapy is therefore necessary for most, if not all, patients. Despite some indication that benign ependymoma (WHO grade II) could show a better outcome, histology cannot be used at present to stratify treatment protocols.Craniospinal irradiation combined with posterior fossa boost has deleterious adverse effects on cognition. Consequently, pediatric oncology teams have, firstly, tried to use chemotherapy to delay or avoid irradiation, and secondly, progressively reduced irradiation fields to the tumor bed without altering the prognosis. Cisplatin, at a dose of 120 mg/m(2) (cumulated response rate of 34% [95% CI 19-54%]) is the only single agent that has reproducibly shown some efficacy in ependymoma. Despite some combinations showing efficacy in the adjuvant setting, childhood intracranial ependymomas can, in general, be considered as chemoresistant. The overexpression of the multidrug resistance-1 gene and the 06-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase have been implicated as possible mechanisms for this phenomenon. As the use of chemotherapy with current agents is questionable, phase II studies with new agents and combinations are necessary. Since the main problem of this disease is local relapse, it may not be necessary to irradiate the whole posterior fossa. However, local control of the disease by irradiation has to be improved. In this respect, hyperfractionation or radiosensitizers may be valuable therapeutic options. The treatment of children with ependymoma is a challenge for all caregivers. There is no doubt that any possible improvement in the management of this rare tumor will only be the result of well designed cooperative trials.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Ependymoma / drug therapy
  • Ependymoma / radiotherapy
  • Ependymoma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents