Glial differentiation predicts poor clinical outcome in primitive neuroectodermal brain tumors

Ann Neurol. 1996 Apr;39(4):481-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.410390410.


Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs) of the central nervous system, including medulloblastomas (PNET/MB), are the most common malignant brain tumor of childhood. These tumors often express proteins characteristic of glial differentiation (glial fibrillary acidic protein, GFAP), neuronal differentiation (neurofilament proteins, NFPs), and/or photoreceptor differentiation (retinal-S antigen). To identify biological factors of prognostic significance in PNETs, the expression of glial, neuronal, or photoreceptor antigens was evaluated in the tumor specimens of 86 patients with PNETs by immunohistochemistry after microwave antigen enhancement. Patterns of differentiation were then compared with patient relapse-free survival. Multivariate analysis of PNET immunohistochemistry and clinical variables indicated GFAP expression conferred a 6.7-fold greater risk of relapse than tumors that did not express GFAP or NFPs. Increased risk of relapse was directly related to the amount of GFAP expression. Tumors exhibiting clumps or sheets of GFAP-staining cells were associated with a 3.0-fold increased risk of relapse compared with tumors that did not express GFAP, irrespective of immunohistochemical evidence of other differentiation, while scattered GFAP staining was not associated with increased risk of relapse. These findings indicate that expression of GFAP in PNETs has prognostic power comparable with the most significant clinical factors currently used to predict clinical outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Arrestin
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / metabolism
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / pathology*
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive / therapy*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology*
  • Recurrence
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antigens
  • Arrestin
  • Eye Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Neurofilament Proteins