CHAPTER SEVEN

TUMORS OF THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
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Histogenesis-classification | Molecular-Genetic Aspects | Etiology-Pathogenesis | Genetic Tumor Syndromes | Diagnosis | Gliomas | Low-grade astrocytoma | Astrocytoma | Glioblastoma Multiforme | Pilocytic Astrocytoma | Oligodendroglioma | Ependymoma | Medulloblastoma | Meningioma | Schwannoma | Neurofibroma | Craniopharyngioma | Hemangioblastoma | Cerebral Lymphoma | The Effects of Brain Tumors
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MEDULLOBLASTOMAMedulloblastoma is the second most frequent BT in children after pilocytic astrocytoma. Most medulloblastomas occur in the first decade of life. There is a second peak in the early 20s. Medulloblastoma is an embryonal tumor of the brain, analogous to Wilms tumor of the kidney and adrenal neuroblastoma. Its embryonal nature is underlined by its high incidence in infants and children and by its undifferentiated, immature appearance, which resembles developing neural tissue. The term primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), which has been applied to medulloblastoma and other “small blue cell tumors” of the brain, reflects the embryonal nature and undifferentiated appearance of these tumors. Medulloblastomas are thought to arise from primitive cells of the external granular layer of the cerebellum, which persists until the beginning of the second year of life. This layer is made up of precursor cells that migrate from the roof of the fourth ventricle to the surface of the developing cerebellum where they divide and differentiate. Neurons then move inwards forming the permanent granular layer of the cerebellar cortex. Remnants of the provisional granular layer are seen in the posterior and anterior medullary velum.
medulloblastoma medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma Medulloblastoma
Medulloblastomas are tumors of the cerebellum, arising usually in the midline, especially in the posterior vermis, adjacent to the roof of the fourth ventricle. A few of them, usually in older patients, arise in the cerebellar hemispheres. On MRI imaging, they are mostly compact, isointense, and show contrast enhancing. On gross examination, medulloblastomas are soft, pink-red, and well demarcated. They can block the fourth ventricle and the aqueduct, causing hydrocephalus.

medulloblastoma medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma: “Small blue cell” tumor Medulloblastoma: Homer-Wright rosettes
Microscopically, they are highly cellular and are composed of diffuse masses of small, undifferentiated oval or round cells. Some medulloblastomas show neuronal, glial and other differentiation. Neuronal differentiation is manifested by neuropil and rosette formation. Rosettes are groups of tumor cells arranged in a circle around a fibrillary center. Infrequent mature neurons may also be found in medulloblastomas. Glial differentiation in some tumors is reflected by GFAP-positive cells. There may also be differentiation along oligodendroglial or ependymal lines. More unusual lines of differentiation result in formation of striated muscle cells (medullomyoblastoma) and melanin-producing cells. Desmoplasmic medulloblastoma is a variant of medulloblastoma with a firm consistency and a collagenous stroma. Desmoplastic medulloblastomas tend to be located superficially and are circumscribed, such that they can be shelled out. The fibroblastic reaction which gives this variant its peculiar texture occurs when the tumor extends into the subarachnoid space. Desmoplastic medulloblastoma is more frequent in the cerebellar hemispheres and in older patients.

medulloblastoma, CSF medulloblastoma, CSF seeding
Medulloblastoma in CSF Medulloblastoma growing around the spinal cord
Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant tumor. It infiltrates and destroys brain tissue and tends to seed the subarachnoid space and spread along the walls of the ventricles. The CSF shows high protein and low glucose, and contains tumor cells. CSF cytology is used to monitor the spread of the tumor. Extracranial metastases occur rarely, usually after operation or shunting. Treatment combines resection, to reduce the tumor mass and decompress the fourth ventricle, shunting of the lateral ventricles, radiation of the tumor bed and the entire neuraxis, and intrathecal chemotherapy. Medulloblastoma is sensitive to radiation.

hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus in medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma, cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma, and other posterior fossa tumors compress the aqueduct and 4th ventricle (or grow in these spaces) causing hydrocephalus. They usually present with symptoms of increased intracranial pressure such as as morning headache, vomiting, and blurred vision. Fundoscopic examination reveals papilledema. Other symptoms include ataxia, strabismus, nystagmus, and stiff neck. The latter is a sign that the tumor is extending through the foramen magnum. Absence of focal deficits compounded by the difficulty of getting a history from a young child may lead to the wrong diagnosis, such as gastroenteritis or aseptic meningitis. A lumbar puncture, in this setting, can induce cerebellar tonsillar herniation ending up in disaster.