Treatment Option Overview for Childhood Astrocytomas
Many of the improvements in survival in childhood cancer have been made as a result of clinical trials that have attempted to improve on the best available, accepted therapy. Clinical trials in pediatrics are designed to compare new therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. This comparison may be done in a randomized study of two treatment arms or by evaluating a single new treatment and comparing the results with previously obtained results that assessed an existing therapy. Because of the relative rarity of cancer in children, all patients with brain tumors should be considered for entry into a clinical trial.
To determine and implement optimum treatment, planning by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who have experience treating childhood brain tumors is required. Radiation therapy of pediatric brain tumors is technically very demanding and should be carried out in centers that have experience in that area to ensure optimal results.
Debilitating effects on growth and neurologic development have frequently been observed following radiation therapy, especially in younger children.[1-3] Also, there are other less-common complications of radiation therapy, including cerebrovascular accidents. For this reason, the role of chemotherapy in allowing a delay in the administration of radiation therapy is under study, and preliminary results suggest that chemotherapy can be used to delay, and sometimes obviate, the need for radiation therapy in children with benign and malignant lesions. Long-term management of these patients is complex and requires a multidisciplinary approach.
|Grade/Stage||Standard Treatment Options|
|Childhood low-grade astrocytomas:|
|Newly diagnosed childhood low-grade astrocytomas||Observation|
|Adjuvant therapy (for tumors that are incompletely resected):|
|—Targeted therapy (for subependymal giant cell astrocytomas)|
|Recurrent childhood low-grade astrocytomas||Second surgery|
|Childhood high-grade astrocytomas:|
|Newly diagnosed childhood high-grade astrocytomas||Surgery|
|Recurrent childhood high-grade astrocytomas||High-dose, marrow-ablative chemotherapy with hematopoietic stem cell transplant (not considered standard treatment)|
|Novel therapeutic approaches (not considered standard treatment)|
- Packer RJ, Sutton LN, Atkins TE, et al.: A prospective study of cognitive function in children receiving whole-brain radiotherapy and chemotherapy: 2-year results. J Neurosurg 70 (5): 707-13, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Johnson DL, McCabe MA, Nicholson HS, et al.: Quality of long-term survival in young children with medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 80 (6): 1004-10, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Packer RJ, Sutton LN, Goldwein JW, et al.: Improved survival with the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in the treatment of medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 74 (3): 433-40, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Bowers DC, Mulne AF, Reisch JS, et al.: Nonperioperative strokes in children with central nervous system tumors. Cancer 94 (4): 1094-101, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Duffner PK, Horowitz ME, Krischer JP, et al.: Postoperative chemotherapy and delayed radiation in children less than three years of age with malignant brain tumors. N Engl J Med 328 (24): 1725-31, 1993. [PUBMED Abstract]