Germ cell brain tumors develop from germ cells – the cells
that later become sperm in the testicles or eggs in the ovaries; during the fetal period, these cells
may get “trapped” in the brain. Most germ cell tumors
are found in the ovaries (ovarian tumors) or testes (testicular tumors), but when they are located in the brain they
are called intracranial germ cell tumors, or germ cell tumors of the brain.
Germ cell tumors that develop in the brain or spinal cord also may be called
CNS (central nervous system) germ cell tumors.
Children with germ cell brain tumors are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's
through the Brain
Tumor Center, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric brain tumor
treatment programs in the world. Our brain tumor specialists have
extensive expertise in treating all types of brain tumors, including germ cell brain tumors. Our patients receive care from neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.
Successfully treating your child’s germ cell brain tumor
depends on where the tumor is located and what type of germ cell tumor it is.
Doctors at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's will classify your child's tumor as
one of the following types:
Brain tumors can cause a variety of symptoms in children based primarily on
the location of the tumor. Keep in mind that the symptoms of a brain tumor may
resemble other more common conditions or medical problems. It is important to
consult your child's physician for persistent symptoms.
Symptoms of germ cell brain tumors typically depend on where
they have developed in the brain. For
tumors in the pineal gland region, children can have the following symptoms:
For tumors in the suprasellar or pituitary
gland region, common symptoms include:
As a parent, you undoubtedly want
to know what may have caused your child’s tumor. The cause of germ cells tumors is not well known.
Usually, germ cells migrate to the gonads during fetal development and become
an egg in the female ovaries or sperm in the male testes. However, when these
germ cells don’t move to the right area, they become trapped in the brain and
multiply in areas where they shouldn’t.
The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate
and complete diagnosis. Germ cell brain tumors are typically diagnosed using a
combination of imaging and biopsy.
with other brain tumors, diagnostic procedures for germ cell tumors of the
brain can determine the exact type of tumor and whether it has spread. Your
child’s physician may order a number of different tests including:
There may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will discuss with
you depending on your child's individual situation. After we complete all
necessary tests, our experts will meet to review and discuss what they have
learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your
family to discuss the results and outline the best possible treatment options.
physician will determine a specific course of treatment based on several
factors, including your child's age, overall health and medical history, the type,
location, and size of the tumor and the extent of the disease.
Treatments for germ cell brain tumors include:
Clinical trials, or research studies
evaluating new treatment approaches, are a major offering at Dana-Farber/Boston
Children’s. Clinical trials are very important for children with hard-to-treat
or relapsed conditions.
In addition to launching our own brain tumor clinical trials, we also offer trials
available through collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group
(COG) and the Pacific Neuro-oncology Consortium (PNOC). We are
also the New England Phase I Center of the Children's Oncology Group. If your
child has progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of
experimental therapies available through these groups, or from one of our
independent clinical investigators.
For many children with brain tumors or other rare or hard-to-treat
conditions, clinical trials provide new options.
Participation in any clinical trial is
completely voluntary. We will take care to fully explain all elements of the
treatment plan prior to the start of the trial, and you may remove your child
from the medical study at any time.
prognosis for children with germ cells tumor of the brain largely depends on
the type of tumor.
In general, germinomas are cured in greater than 90 percent
of cases with combined treatment. Non-germinomatous
germ cell tumors have a 65 percent to 85
percent cure rate, depending on their spread at diagnosis. Mixed germ
cell brain tumors are generally more difficult to treat.
treated for a germ cell tumor in the brain should visit a survivorship clinic
every year to manage disease complications, screen for recurrence and manage late treatment side effects. A typical
follow-up visit is likely to include a physical exam, laboratory testing and
At our brain
tumor survivorship program – the Stop and Shop Family
Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic – children meet with their
neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, pediatric neuro-oncologist and neurologists
at the same follow-up visit. Our multidisciplinary approach and depth of
expertise also give your child on-site access to endocrinologists,
neuro-psychologists and alternative/complementary therapy specialists. School
liaison and psychosocial personnel from the pediatric brain tumor team are also
available. In addition, children
needing rehabilitation may meet with speech, physical, and occupational
therapists during and after treatments.
Through ongoing education, care and support, we are preparing cancer survivors for the road ahead. Learn about our extensive services for survivors of pediatric cancer.