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Childhood Central Nervous System Embryonal Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

Treatment of Newly Diagnosed CNS Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor

Children Older Than 3 Years

Standard treatment options

Standard treatment options for children older than 3 years with newly diagnosed central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumor (CNS PNET) include the following:

  1. Surgery.
  2. Adjuvant therapy.
    • Radiation therapy.
    • Chemotherapy.
  1. Attempting aggressive surgical resection is the first step in the management of newly diagnosed CNS PNETs, although studies have yet to demonstrate that the extent of resection is predictive of outcome.[1-3]
  2. CNS PNETs are often amenable to resection; in reported case series, 50% to 60% of patients were totally or near-totally resected.[1,2]
Adjuvant therapy

After surgery, children with CNS PNETs usually receive treatment similar to that received by children with high-risk medulloblastoma.

Adjuvant radiation therapy and chemotherapy
  1. Conventionally, patients are treated with radiation to the entire neuraxis with local boost radiation therapy, as given for medulloblastoma.[3] However, the local boost radiation therapy may be problematic because of the size of the tumor and its location in the cerebral cortex. Also, there is no definitive evidence that craniospinal radiation therapy is superior to radiation to the primary tumor site alone in children with nondisseminated lesions.[1-3]
  2. The chemotherapeutic approaches during and after radiation therapy are similar to those used for children with high-risk medulloblastoma. Three-year to 5-year overall survival rates of 25% to 50% have been noted.[1-3]; [4][Level of evidence: 2A]; [5][Level of evidence: 3iiiB]

Children Aged 3 Years and Younger

Standard treatment options

Treatment of children aged 3 years and younger with CNS PNETs is similar to that outlined for children aged 3 years and younger with medulloblastoma. (Refer to the medulloblastoma Children Aged 3 Years and Younger section of this summary for more information).

With the use of chemotherapy alone, outcome has been variable, with survival rates at 5 years ranging between 0% and 50%.[6-8]; [9][Level of evidence: 2Di] The addition of craniospinal irradiation to chemotherapy-based regimens may successfully treat some children but with anticipated neurodevelopmental decline.[10][Level of evidence: 2A]

Treatment options under clinical evaluation

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.

  1. COG-ACNS0334 (NCT00336024) (Combination Chemotherapy Followed By Peripheral Stem Cell Transplant in Treating Young Patients With Newly Diagnosed Supratentorial PNETs or High-Risk Medulloblastoma): This Children's Oncology Group phase III randomized trial is studying children aged 3 years and younger with high-risk medulloblastoma or CNS PNETs. Patients are randomly assigned to intensive induction chemotherapy with or without methotrexate followed by consolidation with hematopoietic stem cell rescue.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with untreated childhood supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Cohen BH, Zeltzer PM, Boyett JM, et al.: Prognostic factors and treatment results for supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors in children using radiation and chemotherapy: a Childrens Cancer Group randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 13 (7): 1687-96, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Reddy AT, Janss AJ, Phillips PC, et al.: Outcome for children with supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Cancer 88 (9): 2189-93, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Timmermann B, Kortmann RD, Kühl J, et al.: Role of radiotherapy in the treatment of supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors in childhood: results of the prospective German brain tumor trials HIT 88/89 and 91. J Clin Oncol 20 (3): 842-9, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Chintagumpala M, Hassall T, Palmer S, et al.: A pilot study of risk-adapted radiotherapy and chemotherapy in patients with supratentorial PNET. Neuro Oncol 11 (1): 33-40, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Johnston DL, Keene DL, Lafay-Cousin L, et al.: Supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors: a Canadian pediatric brain tumor consortium report. J Neurooncol 86 (1): 101-8, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Geyer JR, Sposto R, Jennings M, et al.: Multiagent chemotherapy and deferred radiotherapy in infants with malignant brain tumors: a report from the Children's Cancer Group. J Clin Oncol 23 (30): 7621-31, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Marec-Berard P, Jouvet A, Thiesse P, et al.: Supratentorial embryonal tumors in children under 5 years of age: an SFOP study of treatment with postoperative chemotherapy alone. Med Pediatr Oncol 38 (2): 83-90, 2002. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Grill J, Sainte-Rose C, Jouvet A, et al.: Treatment of medulloblastoma with postoperative chemotherapy alone: an SFOP prospective trial in young children. Lancet Oncol 6 (8): 573-80, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Fangusaro J, Finlay J, Sposto R, et al.: Intensive chemotherapy followed by consolidative myeloablative chemotherapy with autologous hematopoietic cell rescue (AuHCR) in young children with newly diagnosed supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors (sPNETs): report of the Head Start I and II experience. Pediatr Blood Cancer 50 (2): 312-8, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Friedrich C, von Bueren AO, von Hoff K, et al.: Treatment of young children with CNS-primitive neuroectodermal tumors/pineoblastomas in the prospective multicenter trial HIT 2000 using different chemotherapy regimens and radiotherapy. Neuro Oncol 15 (2): 224-34, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: December 11, 2014