Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER
  • View entire document
  • Print
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

Childhood Craniopharyngioma Treatment (PDQ®)

Recurrent Childhood Craniopharyngioma Treatment

Treatment Options for Recurrent Childhood Craniopharyngioma

Recurrence of craniopharyngioma occurs in approximately 35% of patients regardless of primary therapy.[1]

Treatment options for recurrent childhood craniopharyngioma include the following:

  1. Surgery.
  2. Radiation therapy, including radiosurgery.
  3. Intracavitary instillation of radioactive P-32, bleomycin, or interferon-alpha, for those with cystic recurrences.
  4. Systemic interferon.

The management of recurrent craniopharyngioma is determined largely by previous therapy. Repeat attempts at gross-total resections are difficult, and long-term disease control is less often achieved.[2][Level of evidence: 3iiiDi] Complications are more frequent than with initial surgery.[3][Level of evidence: 3iiiDi] If not previously employed, external-beam radiation therapy is an option, to include consideration of radiosurgery in selected circumstances.[4][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]

Cystic recurrences may be treated with intracavitary instillation of varying agents via stereotactic delivery or placement of an Ommaya catheter.[5] These agents have included radioactive P-32 or other radioactive compounds,[6,7]; [8][Level of evidence: 2A], bleomycin,[9]; [10][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii] or interferon-alpha.[11]; [12][Level of evidence: 3iiiB] These strategies have been found to be useful in certain cases, and a low risk of complications has been reported. However, none of these approaches have shown efficacy against solid portions of the tumor.

Although systemic therapy is generally not utilized, a small series has shown that the use of subcutaneous pegylated interferon alpha-2b to manage cystic recurrences can result in durable responses.[13][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiii]

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation for Recurrent Childhood Craniopharyngioma

The following is an example of a national and/or institutional clinical trial that is currently being conducted. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

  • PBTC-039 (NCT01964300) (Peginterferon Alfa-2b in Treating Younger Patients With Craniopharyngioma That is Recurrent or Cannot Be Removed By Surgery): This is a phase II clinical trial evaluating how well peginterferon alfa-2b works in treating children with craniopharyngioma that is recurrent or cannot be removed by surgery. This trial follows a small (N = 5) single-institution experience with peginterferon alfa-2b, in which prolonged complete responses were observed in some patients.[13]


  1. Yang I, Sughrue ME, Rutkowski MJ, et al.: Craniopharyngioma: a comparison of tumor control with various treatment strategies. Neurosurg Focus 28 (4): E5, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Vinchon M, Dhellemmes P: Craniopharyngiomas in children: recurrence, reoperation and outcome. Childs Nerv Syst 24 (2): 211-7, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Jang WY, Lee KS, Son BC, et al.: Repeat operations in pediatric patients with recurrent craniopharyngiomas. Pediatr Neurosurg 45 (6): 451-5, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Xu Z, Yen CP, Schlesinger D, et al.: Outcomes of Gamma Knife surgery for craniopharyngiomas. J Neurooncol 104 (1): 305-13, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Steinbok P, Hukin J: Intracystic treatments for craniopharyngioma. Neurosurg Focus 28 (4): E13, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Julow J, Backlund EO, Lányi F, et al.: Long-term results and late complications after intracavitary yttrium-90 colloid irradiation of recurrent cystic craniopharyngiomas. Neurosurgery 61 (2): 288-95; discussion 295-6, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Barriger RB, Chang A, Lo SS, et al.: Phosphorus-32 therapy for cystic craniopharyngiomas. Radiother Oncol 98 (2): 207-12, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Kickingereder P, Maarouf M, El Majdoub F, et al.: Intracavitary brachytherapy using stereotactically applied phosphorus-32 colloid for treatment of cystic craniopharyngiomas in 53 patients. J Neurooncol 109 (2): 365-74, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Linnert M, Gehl J: Bleomycin treatment of brain tumors: an evaluation. Anticancer Drugs 20 (3): 157-64, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Hukin J, Steinbok P, Lafay-Cousin L, et al.: Intracystic bleomycin therapy for craniopharyngioma in children: the Canadian experience. Cancer 109 (10): 2124-31, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Ierardi DF, Fernandes MJ, Silva IR, et al.: Apoptosis in alpha interferon (IFN-alpha) intratumoral chemotherapy for cystic craniopharyngiomas. Childs Nerv Syst 23 (9): 1041-6, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Cavalheiro S, Di Rocco C, Valenzuela S, et al.: Craniopharyngiomas: intratumoral chemotherapy with interferon-alpha: a multicenter preliminary study with 60 cases. Neurosurg Focus 28 (4): E12, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Yeung JT, Pollack IF, Panigrahy A, et al.: Pegylated interferon-α-2b for children with recurrent craniopharyngioma. J Neurosurg Pediatr 10 (6): 498-503, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: January 15, 2015