Molecular Pathology of Tumors of the Central Nervous System

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Since the update of the 4th edition of the WHO Classification of Central Nervous System (CNS) Tumors published in 2016, particular molecular characteristics are part of the definition of a subset of these neoplasms. This combined ′histo-molecular′ approach allows for a much more precise diagnosis of especially diffuse gliomas and embryonal CNS tumors. This review provides an update of the most important diagnostic and prognostic markers for state-of-the-art diagnosis of primary CNS tumors. Defining molecular markers for diffuse gliomas are IDH1/IDH2 mutations, 1p/19q codeletion and mutations in histone H3 genes. Medulloblastomas, the most frequent embryonal CNS tumors, are divided in four molecularly defined groups according to the WHO 2016 Classification: WNT signaling pathway activated, SHH signaling pathway activated and TP53-mutant, SHH-activated and TP53-wildtype, and non-WNT/non-SHH-activated. Molecular characteristics are also important for the diagnosis of several other CNS tumors, such as RELA fusion-positive subtype of ependymoma, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), embryonal tumor with multilayered rosettes (ETMR), and solitary fibrous tumor/hemangiopericytoma (SFT/HPC). Immunohistochemistry is a helpful alternative for further molecular characterization of several of these tumors. Additionally, genome-wide methylation profiling is a very promising new tool in CNS tumor diagnostics. Much progress has thus been made by translating the most relevant molecular knowledge into a more precise clinical diagnosis of CNS tumors. Hopefully, this will enable more specific and more effective therapeutic approaches for the patients suffering from these tumors.

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