Pineal/germ cell tumors and pineal parenchymal tumors

Childs Nerv Syst. 2023 Oct;39(10):2649-2665. doi: 10.1007/s00381-023-06081-1. Epub 2023 Oct 13.


Introduction: Pineal region tumors (PRTs) are tumors arising from the pineal gland and the paraspinal structures. These tumors are rare and heterogeneous that account for 2.8-10.1% and 0.6-3.2% of tumors in children and in all ages, respectively. Almost all types and subtypes of CNS tumors may be diagnosed in this region. These tumors come from cells of the pineal gland (pinealocytes and neuroglial cells), ectopic primordial germ cells (PGC), and cells from adjacent structures. Hence, PRTs are consisted of pineal parenchyma tumors (PPTs), germ cell tumors (GCTs), neuroepithelial tumors (NETs), other miscellaneous types of tumors, cystic tumors (epidermoid, dermoid), and pineal cyst in addition. The symptoms of PRTs correlate to the increased intracranial cranial pressure due to obstructive hydrocephalus and dorsal midbrain compression. The diagnostic imaging studies are mainly MRI of brain (with and without gadolinium) along with a sagittal view of whole spine. Serum and/or CSF AFP/β-HCG helps to identify GCTs. The treatment of PRTs is consisted of the selection of surgical biopsy/resection, handling of hydrocephalus, neoadjuvant and/or adjuvant therapy according to age, tumor location, histopathological/molecular classification, grading of tumors, staging, and threshold value of markers (for GCTs) in addition.

Methods: In this article, we review the following focus points: 1. Background of pineal region tumors. 2. Pineal GCTs and evolution of management. 3. Molecular study for GCTs and pineal parenchymal tumors. 4. Review of surgical approaches to the pineal region. 5. Contribution of endoscopy. 6. Adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and combination). 7.

Results: In all ages, the leading three types of PRTs in western countries were PPTs (22.7-34.8%), GCTs (27.3-34.4%), and NETs (17.2-28%). In children and young adults, the leading PRTs were invariably in the order of GCTs (40-80.5%), PPTs (7.6-21.6%), NETs (2.4-37.5%). Surgical biopsy/resection of PRTs is important for precision diagnosis and therapy. Safe resection with acceptable low mortality and morbidity was achieved after 1970s because of the advancement of surgical approaches, CSF shunt and valve system, microscopic and endoscopic surgery. Following histopathological diagnosis and classification of types and subtypes of PRTs, in PPTs, through molecular profiling, four molecular groups of pineoblastoma (PB) and their oncogenic driver were identified. Hence, molecular stratified precision therapy can be achieved.

Conclusion: Modern endoscopic and microsurgical approaches help to achieve precise histopathological diagnosis and molecular classification of different types and subtypes of pineal region tumors for risk-stratified optimal, effective, and protective therapy. In the future, molecular analysis of biospecimen (CSF and blood) along with AI radiomics on tumor imaging integrating clinical and bioinformation may help for personalized and risk-stratified management of patients with pineal region tumors.

Keywords: Endoscopy; Germ cell tumor; Hydrocephalus; Pineal parenchymal tumor; Pineal region tumor; Pineoblastoma; Surgical approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus* / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal* / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal* / therapy
  • Pineal Gland*
  • Pinealoma* / pathology
  • Pinealoma* / therapy
  • Young Adult