Childhood brain tumors: epidemiology, current management and future directions

Nat Rev Neurol. 2011 Jul 26;7(9):495-506. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2011.110.


Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children. With the increasingly widespread availability of MRI, the incidence of childhood brain tumors seemed to rise in the 1980s, but has subsequently remained relatively stable. However, management of brain tumors in children has evolved substantially during this time, reflecting refinements in classification of tumors, delineation of risk groups within histological subsets of tumors, and incorporation of molecular techniques to further define tumor subgroups. Although considerable progress has been made in the outcomes of certain tumors, prognosis in other childhood brain tumor types is poor. Among the tumor groups with more-favorable outcomes, attention has been focused on reducing long-term morbidity without sacrificing survival rates. Studies for high-risk groups have examined the use of intensive therapy or novel, molecularly targeted approaches to improve disease control rates. In addition to reviewing the literature and providing an overview of the complexities in diagnosing childhood brain tumors, we will discuss advances in the treatment and categorization of several tumor types in which progress has been most apparent, as well as those in which improvements have been lacking. The latest insights from molecular correlative studies that hold potential for future refinements in therapy will also be discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neurosurgery
  • Risk Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents