Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Contemporary Management of Medulloblastoma: Current and Emerging Applications

Methods Mol Biol. 2022:2423:187-214. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1952-0_18.


Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant primary brain tumor in children, is now considered to comprise of four distinct molecular subgroups-wingless (WNT), sonic hedgehog (SHH), Group 3, and Group 4 medulloblastoma, each associated with distinct developmental origins, unique transcriptional profiles, diverse phenotypes, and variable clinical behavior. Due to its exquisite anatomic resolution, multiparametric nature, and ability to image the entire craniospinal axis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the preferred and recommended first-line imaging modality for suspected brain tumors including medulloblastoma. Preoperative MRI can reliably differentiate medulloblastoma from other common childhood posterior fossa masses such as ependymoma, pilocytic astrocytoma, and brainstem glioma. On T1-weighted images, medulloblastoma is generally iso- to hypointense, while on T2-weighted images, the densely packed cellular component of the tumor is significantly hypointense and displays restricted diffusion on diffusion-weighted imaging. Following intravenous gadolinium, medulloblastoma shows significant but variable and heterogeneous contrast enhancement. Given the propensity of neuraxial spread in medulloblastoma, sagittal fat-suppressed T1-postcontrast spinal MRI is recommended to rule out leptomeningeal metastases for accurate staging. Following neurosurgical excision, postoperative MRI done within 24-48 h confirms the extent of resection, accurately quantifying residual tumor burden imperative for risk assignment. Post-treatment MRI is needed to assess response and effectiveness of adjuvant radiotherapy and systemic chemotherapy. After completion of planned therapy, surveillance MRI is recommended periodically on follow-up for early detection of recurrence for timely institution of salvage therapy, as well as for monitoring treatment-related late complications. Recent studies suggest that preoperative MRI can reliably identify SHH and Group 4 medulloblastoma but has suboptimal predictive accuracy for WNT and Group 3 tumors. In this review, we focus on the role of MRI in the diagnosis, staging, and quantifying residual disease; post-treatment response assessment; and periodic surveillance, and provide a brief summary on radiogenomics in the contemporary management of medulloblastoma.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Imaging; MRI; Medulloblastoma; Molecular subgroups; Radiogenomics; Staging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebellar Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Child
  • Ependymoma*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Medulloblastoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Medulloblastoma* / therapy


  • Hedgehog Proteins