Treatment Options for Medulloblastoma and CNS Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET)

Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2013 Oct;15(5):593-606. doi: 10.1007/s11940-013-0255-4.


Medulloblastoma and central nervous system (CNS) primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) are primary pediatric brain tumors that require multidisciplinary therapies. Although often treated similarly in clinical trials, they are biologically different diseases. Even within medulloblastomas and CNS PNETs, there are molecularly distinct subgroups with differing presentations and prognoses. Overall, prognosis is better for medulloblastomas. Specific treatments for these types of cancer are continuously evolving to maximize survival and minimize long-term sequelae of treatment. Patients should be treated on a clinical trial, if eligible, as they may gain benefit with minimal risk over current standard of care. The amount of residual disease after surgery better correlates with survival for medulloblastomas than for CNS PNETs. Maximal surgical resection of tumor should be done, only if additional permanent, neurologic deficits can be spared. Patients should have a staging work-up to assess the extent of disease. This includes postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, MRI of the entire spine and lumbar cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sampling for cytological examination, if deemed safe. Radiation therapy to the entire CNS axis is required, with a greater dose (boost) given to the region of the primary site or any bulky residual disease for older children. Adjuvant chemotherapy must be given even if no evidence of disease after radiation therapy exists, as the risk of relapse is substantial after radiation alone. Subsets of younger children with medulloblastoma, arbitrarily defined as those younger than 3 years of age in some studies and 4 or even 5 years in other studies, can be effectively treated with chemotherapy alone. Recent genomic studies have revealed further subtypes of disease than previously recognized. Clinical trials to exploit these biologic differences are required to assess potential efficacy of targeted agents. The treatment of medulloblastoma and CNS PNET can cause significant impairment in neurologic function. Evaluations by physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and neurocognitive assessments should be obtained, as needed. After therapy is completed, survivors need follow-up of endocrine function, surveillance scans and psychosocial support.