2021 updates to the World Health Organization classification of adult-type and pediatric-type diffuse gliomas: a clinical practice review

Chin Clin Oncol. 2023 Feb;12(1):7. doi: 10.21037/cco-22-120.


In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System (CNS) underwent significant restructuring to incorporate additional molecular diagnostics, several newly recognized tumor types, and new grading schemes for existing tumor types. The 2021 CNS WHO classification further elaborates and integrates histopathologic and molecular diagnostic criteria to improve diagnostic classification. Furthermore, it is the hope that identification of molecular alterations in pediatric and adult tumors facilitates improved prognostic information and development of novel targeted therapies for adults and children with CNS tumors. In one of the largest changes in the new WHO classification, diffuse gliomas are divided into pediatric-type and adult-type gliomas to highlight our expanding knowledge of their different molecular drivers and prognostic associations. Several new pediatric-type diffuse low-grade gliomas are defined including (I) diffuse astrocytoma, MYB- or MYBL1-altered, (II) polymorphous low-grade neuroepithelial tumor of the young (PLNTY), and (III) diffuse low-grade glioma, MAPK-pathway altered. In addition, several new pediatric-type diffuse high-grade gliomas are recognized including (I) diffuse hemispheric glioma, H3 G34R-mutant (II) diffuse pediatric-type high-grade glioma, H3-wildtype and IDH-wildtype, and (III) infant-type hemispheric glioma. These new tumor types have associated clinical, genetic and epigenetic features that are distinct from adult-type diffuse gliomas. This review provides an overview of updates in the 2021 CNS WHO classification specific to diffuse gliomas, with a particular focus on the histopathology and molecular findings of the newly described pediatric-type low-grade and high-grade gliomas.

Keywords: World Health Organization (WHO); adult gliomas; brain tumors; diffuse gliomas; pediatric gliomas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Child
  • Glioma* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • World Health Organization