Surgical strategies and modern therapeutic options in the treatment of craniopharyngiomas

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2013 Dec;88(3):514-29. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2013.07.013. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


The optimal treatment of patients with craniopharyngioma remains controversial. In particular, the role of aggressive treatment compared to less aggressive therapeutic options is poorly understood. Radical resection is the therapy of choice at any age, because it is associated with the best outcome in terms of survival. Nevertheless, aggressive behaviour, location, involvement of critical structures, tumour size, calcifications, and patient age may limit the extent of resection. Surgery can also carry significant morbidity in terms of visual, hypothalamic, and endocrinological disturbances. Long term sequelae reduce the quality of life in 50% of long-term survivors, notably obesity and neurobehavioral impairment due to hypthalamic involvement and iatrogenic induced lesions. The quality of life should be considered as a clinically important endpoint in patients, who currently experience good overall survival rates, regardless of the degree of surgical resection. Tendency to recur despite negative postoperative imaging led many authors to advocate a less aggressive surgical treatment followed by radiation therapy. We review the data reported in the literature, especially early outcome after surgical treatment and factors affecting the risk of tumour recurrence, to elucidate the role of attempted radical resection in the treatment of craniopharyngioma and to identify the clinical and morphological characteristics predictive for the best surgical prognosis.

Keywords: Craniopharyngiomas; Midline lesions; Radiation therapy; Radiosurgery; Sellar surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Craniopharyngioma / diagnosis
  • Craniopharyngioma / epidemiology
  • Craniopharyngioma / surgery*
  • Craniopharyngioma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Prognosis
  • Radiosurgery
  • Third Ventricle / pathology
  • Visual Pathways / pathology