Central nervous system germ cell tumors: classification, clinical features, and treatment with a historical overview

J Child Neurol. 2009 Nov;24(11):1439-45. doi: 10.1177/0883073809342127.


Central nervous system germ cell tumors are neoplasms that affect children and young adults. They are subclassified into germinoma and nongerminomatous germ cell tumors. The latter include teratoma (mature teratoma, immature teratoma, teratoma with malignant transformation), choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac tumors, and mixtures of these entities. Germinoma with syncytiotrophoblastic giant cells is a variant of germinoma. Germinomas respond well to radiation therapy, but late sequelae due to irradiation have been reported. The results of radiation treatment alone for nongerminomatous germ cell tumor are not satisfactory. Combination radiochemotherapy has been applied, and this yields a good outcome with less toxicity for germinomas and better survival of nongerminomatous germ cell tumors. This article also discusses other issues, including the controversy regarding spinal irradiation and the treatment of recurrent disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / classification
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Child
  • Germinoma / classification
  • Germinoma / diagnosis
  • Germinoma / epidemiology
  • Germinoma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / classification
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / therapy*
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / classification
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / therapy*