Aggressive infantile embryonal tumors

J Child Neurol. 2008 Oct;23(10):1195-204. doi: 10.1177/0883073808321769.


Embryonal tumors are the most common brain tumors in infants less than 36 months. Histologically characterized as undifferentiated small, round cell tumors with divergent patterns of differentiation, these include medulloblastoma, the most common form of embryonal tumor, as well as supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor, medulloepithelioma, ependymoblastoma, medullomyoblastoma, melanotic medulloblastoma, and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor. All are similarly aggressive and have a tendency to disseminate throughout the central nervous system. Because of efforts to avoid craniospinal irradiation in an attempt to lessen treatment-related neurotoxicity, management of these tumors in infants is unique. Outcomes remain similarly poor among all the tumor types and, therefore, identification of specific molecular targets that have prognostic and therapeutic implications is crucial. The molecular and clinical aspects of the 3 most common aggressive infantile embryonal tumors, medulloblastoma, supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor, and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, are the focus of this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Medulloblastoma / physiopathology
  • Medulloblastoma / therapy
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / therapy
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors / pathology
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors / physiopathology
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors / therapy
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / pathology
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / physiopathology
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / therapy


  • Biomarkers, Tumor