Introduction: Neurofibromatosis 1 is a tumor predisposition genetic syndrome with autosomal dominant inheritance and virtually 100% penetrance by the age of 5 years. NF1 results from a loss-of-function mutation in the NF1 gene, resulting in decreased levels of neurofibromin in the cell. Neurofibromin is a negative regulator of various intracellular signaling pathways involved in the cellular proliferation. Although the loss of heterozygosity in the NF1 gene may predispose NF1 patients to certain malignancies, additional genetic alterations are a prerequisite for their development. The precise nature of these additional genetic alterations is not well defined, and genetic testing of all malignancies in NF1 patients becomes an essential component of future research in this subset of patients. In addition to germline NF1 mutations, alteration of the somatic NF1 gene is associated with sporadic malignancies such as adenocarcinoma of the colon, myelodysplastic syndrome, and anaplastic astrocytoma.
Materials and methods: A comprehensive English and non-English language search for all articles pertinent to malignancies associated with NF1 was conducted using PubMed, a search engine provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Key words searched included the following: "malignancies associated with NF1", "tumors associated with NF1", and "NF1 and malignancies". A comprehensive analysis in terms age and mode of presentation, investigation and therapeutic modalities, and outcome of the published data was performed and compared with similar information on the sporadic cases.
Results: Malignancies in NF1 patients typically occur at an earlier age and, with an exception of optic pathway gliomas, certain types of malignancies carry a poor prognosis compared with their sporadic counterparts. Malignancies are the leading cause of death in NF1 patients, resulting in a 10- to 15-year decreased life expectancy compared with the general population.
Conclusions: The lack of well-defined screening tests for early detection and the nonspecific clinical presentation contributes to a poorer outcome in malignancies associated with NF1. Small study group size, mixed patient population, and a lack of uniformity in reporting research results make comparison of treatment outcome for this group difficult. An International Consensus Meeting to address and recommend best practices for screening, diagnosis, management, and follow-up of malignancies associated with NF1 is needed.