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Merdas Al-Otibi and James T. Rutka

Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) is one of the most common inherited diseases in humans. It is caused by a mutation in the NF1 gene on chromosome 17, and is associated with numerous central and peripheral nervous system manifestations. Children with NF1 are at high risk of harboring numerous lesions that may require the attention of a neurosurgeon. Some of these include optic nerve gliomas, hydrocephalus, intraspinal tumors, and peripheral nerve tumors. Although most of the neoplasms that affect the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves of children are low-grade lesions, there is a small but real risk that some of these lesions may become high grade over time, requiring other forms of therapy than surgery alone. Other associated disorders that may result from NF1 in childhood include Chiari malformation Type I, scoliosis, and pulsating exophthalmos from the absence of the sphenoid wing. In this review, the major lesions that are found in children with NF1 are reviewed as well as the types of treatment that are offered by neurosurgeons and other members of the treating team. Today, optimum care of the child with NF1 is provided by a multidisciplinary team comprising neurosurgeons, neurologists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, orthopedic surgeons, and plastic surgeons.

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Mandeep S. Tamber and James T. Rutka

The purpose of this review is to highlight some of the pertinent concepts and controversies surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric supratentorial high-grade gliomas. Unlike the adult counterparts, pediatric high-grade gliomas are likely derived from distinct cytogenetic and molecular alterations. Surgery has been shown to play a role in extending patient survival. Some success is associated with the provision of chemotherapy. Radiotherapy remains an important adjunct in children older than age 3 years. The challenges involved in improving the poor prognosis of children in whom these very aggressive tumors have been diagnosed will be discussed, as well as some of the novel approaches being investigated to improve patient survival and quality of life.

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Eve C. Tsai, Stephen Santoreneos and James T. Rutka

Although many treatment strategies for skull base tumors in adults have been reported, relatively little has been reported regarding such therapies in the pediatric population. Skull base tumors in children present a therapeutic challenge because of their unique pathological composition, the constraints of the maturing skull and brain, and the small size of the patients. In this review, the authors examine the pediatric skull base lesions that occur in the anterior, middle, and posterior cranial base, focusing on unique pediatric tumors such as encepahalocele, fibrous dysplasia, esthesioneuroblastoma, craniopharyngioma, juvenile nasopharyngeal angiofibroma, cholesteatoma, chordoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma. They review management strategies that include radio- and chemotherapy, as well as surgical approaches with emphasis on the modifications and complications associated with the procedures as they apply in children. Evidence for the advantages and limitations of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery as it pertains to the pediatric population will be examined. With a working knowledge of skull base anatomy and special considerations of the developing craniofacial skeleton, neurosurgeons can treat skull base lesions in children with acceptable morbidity and mortality rates. Outcomes in this population may be better than those in adults, in part because of the benign histopathology that frequently affects the pediatric skull base, as well as the plasticity of the maturing nervous system.

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James T. Rutka, Masaji Murakami, Peter B. Dirks, Sherri Lynn Hubbard, Laurence E. Becker, Kozo Fukuyama, Shin Jung and Kazuhito Matsuzawa

In the adult human brain, normal astrocytes constitute nearly 40% of the total central nervous system (CNS) cell population and may assume a star-shaped configuration resembling epithelial cells insofar as the astrocytes remain intimately associated, through their cytoplasmic extensions, with the basement membrane of the capillary endothelial cells and the basal lamina of the glial limitans externa. Although their exact function remains unknown, in the past, astrocytes were thought to subserve an important supportive role for neurons, providing a favorable ionic environment, modulating extracellular levels of neurotransmitters, and serving as spacers that organize neurons. In immunohistochemical preparations, normal, reactive, and neoplastic astrocytes may be positively identified and distinguished from other CNS cell types by the expression of the astrocyte-specific intermediate filament glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). This GFAP is a 50-kD intracytoplasmic filamentous protein that constitutes a portion of, and is specific for, the cytoskeleton of the astrocyte. This protein has proved to be the most specific marker for cells of astrocytic origin under normal and pathological conditions. Interestingly, with increasing astrocytic malignancy, there is progressive loss of GFAP production. As the human gene for GFAP has now been cloned and sequenced, this review begins with a summary of the molecular biology of GFAP including the proven utility of the GFAP promoter in targeting genes of interest to the CNS in transgenic animals. Based on the data provided the authors argue cogently for an expanded role of GFAP in complex cellular events such as cytoskeletal reorganization, maintenance of myelination, cell adhesion, and signaling pathways. As such, GFAP may not represent a mere mechanical integrator of cellular space, as has been previously thought. Rather, GFAP may provide docking sites for important kinases that recognize key cellular substrates that enable GFAP to form a dynamic continuum with microfilaments, integrin receptors, and the extracellular matrix.