Recent Advances in the Classification and Treatment of Ependymomas

Opinion Statement

Ependymomas are a subgroup of ependymal glia-derived neoplasms that affect children as well as adults. Arising within any CNS compartment, symptoms at presentation can range from acute onset due to increased intracranial pressure to insidious myelopathy. The overall survival (OS) outcomes in adult patients across the subgroups is heterogeneous with subependymoma having an excellent prognosis often even in the absence of any treatment, whereas supratentorial ependymomas tend to be higher grade in nature and may have an OS of 5 years despite gross total resection and adjuvant radiation. The rarity of ependymal tumors, together still only representing 1.8% of all primary CNS tumors, has been a long-standing challenge in defining optimal treatment guidelines via prospective randomized trials. Retrospective studies have supported maximal safe resection, ideally gross total resection, as the optimal treatment with adjuvant radiation therapy proffering additional tumor control. The evidence for efficacy of chemotherapy and targeted agents in adult ependymomas is minimal. Recent investigations of the molecular, genetic, and DNA methylation profiles of ependymal tumors across all age groups and CNS compartments have identified distinct oncogenic gene products as well as nine molecular subgroups correlating with similar outcomes. The 2016 World Health Organization of Tumors of the Central Nervous System update addresses some of these findings, although their clinical significance has not yet been fully validated. There are inconsistent survival outcomes in retrospective studies for ependymomas graded as II versus III, bringing into question the validity of histologic grading which is subject to high interobserver variability in part due to inconsistent application of mitotic count parameters.

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Financial support came from the Department of Neurosurgery and the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, Henry Ford Health System.

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Correspondence to Tobias Walbert MD.

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Heather Leeper has served as a consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Michelle M. Felicella declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Tobias Walbert has served on the advisory board of Novocure.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Neuro-oncology

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Leeper, H., Felicella, M.M. & Walbert, T. Recent Advances in the Classification and Treatment of Ependymomas. Curr. Treat. Options in Oncol. 18, 55 (2017).

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  • Ependymoma
  • Management
  • Molecular classification
  • Treatment
  • Brain tumor
  • Central nervous system