Increasing value of autopsies in patients with brain tumors in the molecular era

J Neurooncol. 2019 Nov;145(2):349-355. doi: 10.1007/s11060-019-03302-z. Epub 2019 Sep 30.


Background: Pediatric brain tumors are associated with high morbidity and mortality, in part due to insufficient understanding of tumor biology. With limited tissue allocation for research from surgical specimens, a key barrier to improving biological understanding, brain tumor autopsies have become an increasingly valuable resource. This study reviews the brain tumor autopsy practice at our institution and describes specific emerging research utilization patterns beyond the clinical autopsy report.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of brain tumor autopsies at Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) between 2007 and 2017 and reviewed their consents, neuropathology reports and final diagnoses. We reviewed the method of tissue triaging for research consented autopsies (bioregistry, frozen and fresh tissue) and documented their specific uses.

Results: Ninety-six deaths at BCH were due to brain tumors; 56 autopsies were performed (58.3%), of which 49 (87.5%) were consented for research. Tumor mapping was performed on all cases and tissue was allocated for DNA- and RNA-based sequencing studies (published and ongoing). Three tissue allocations with a postmortem interval of 8 h or less resulted in successful cell lines. Tissue from 14 autopsies was contributed to the National DIPG Registry.

Conclusion: Our institutional pediatric brain tumor autopsy clinical experience demonstrates the increased utility and wide utilization of autopsy-derived tissue for multiple types of research. These results support the increased efforts to obtain research consent for brain tumor autopsy and active collection of unfixed autopsy material in the molecular era.

Keywords: Autopsy consent; Autopsy-derived cell lines; Brain tumor autopsy; Tissue allocation.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Biomedical Research
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies