Novel Diagnostic Methods and Posttreatment Clinical Phenotypes Among Intracranial Germ Cell Tumors

Neurosurgery. 2020 Sep 1;87(3):563-572. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyaa108.


Background: Central nervous system (CNS) germ cell tumors (GCT) are rare and complex pediatric neoplasms, the optimal management of which remains an area of active investigation.

Objective: To present an updated cohort study, with particular attention to novel diagnostic methods and posttreatment clinical phenotypes.

Methods: A single-institution cohort study of 80 primary, neurosurgically managed, CNS GCTs was conducted at Mayo Clinic, 1988-2017.

Results: Postchemotherapy resection (eg, second-look surgery) was frequently required (27.0%), especially after adjuvant therapies for nongerminomatous GCTs (NGGCTs; 14 of 28 cases, excluding mature teratoma) and significantly associated with pineal lesions, as compared to neurohypophyseal or bifocal lesions (43.6% vs 5.9% vs 6.7%, P = .004), a finding that retained statistical significance after adjusting for index extent of resection and histology (P = .04). Essentially every NGGCT case underwent at least 1 craniotomy, either on presentation, as second-look surgery, or following local recurrence. Mature teratomatous tissue was highly incident in second-look specimens (84.2%), even among lesions initially diagnosed as germinomas. Pretreatment cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cell fraction analysis demonstrated an association between single lesions and neutrophil predominance, whereas nongerminomatous GCTs were associated with increased monocyte fractions.

Conclusion: CNS GCTs are clinically heterogeneous lesions, resulting in numerous opportunities for improved understanding and clinical management via novel diagnostic and therapeutic protocols. Samples from second-look surgeries for recurrent germinomas frequently demonstrate teratomatous tissue, suggesting possible underdiagnosis of mixed GCTs-particularly among pineal lesions. GCT subtypes demonstrate differential cell fraction distributions on CSF analysis, a novel and perhaps diagnostically helpful finding that requires validation in external cohorts.

Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; Chemotherapy; Germ cell tumor; Long-term sequelae; Radiation therapy; Second-look surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / therapy
  • Phenotype
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult