Molecular genetics of ependymoma

Chin J Cancer. 2011 Oct;30(10):669-81. doi: 10.5732/cjc.011.10129.


Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer death in children, with ependymoma being the third most common and posing a significant clinical burden. Its mechanism of pathogenesis, reliable prognostic indicators, and effective treatments other than surgical resection have all remained elusive. Until recently, ependymoma research was hindered by the small number of tumors available for study, low resolution of cytogenetic techniques, and lack of cell lines and animal models. Ependymoma heterogeneity, which manifests as variations in tumor location, patient age, histological grade, and clinical behavior, together with the observation of a balanced genomic profile in up to 50% of cases, presents additional challenges in understanding the development and progression of this disease. Despite these difficulties, we have made significant headway in the past decade in identifying the genetic alterations and pathways involved in ependymoma tumorigenesis through collaborative efforts and the application of microarray-based genetic (copy number) and transcriptome profiling platforms. Genetic characterization of ependymoma unraveled distinct mRNA-defined subclasses and led to the identification of radial glial cells as its cell type of origin. This review summarizes our current knowledge in the molecular genetics of ependymoma and proposes future research directions necessary to further advance this field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Ependymoma / genetics*
  • Ependymoma / pathology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / pathology*