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The clinical course and role of surgery in pediatric malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors: a database study

Victor M. Lu, Shelly Wang, David J. Daniels, Robert J. Spinner, Allan D. Levi, and Toba N. Niazi


Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) are rare tumors found throughout the body, with their clinical course in children still not completely understood. Correspondingly, this study aimed to determine survival outcomes and specific clinical predictors of survival in this population from a large national database.


All patients with MPNSTs aged ≤ 18 years in the US National Cancer Database (NCDB) between 2005 and 2016 were retrospectively reviewed. Data were summarized, and overall survival was modeled using Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses.


A total of 251 pediatric patients with MPNSTs (132 [53%] females and 119 [47%] males) were identified; the mean age at diagnosis was 13.1 years (range 1–18 years). There were 84 (33%) MPNSTs located in the extremities, 127 (51%) were smaller than 1 cm, and 22 (9%) had metastasis at the time of diagnosis. In terms of treatment, surgery was pursued in 187 patients (74%), chemotherapy in 116 patients (46%), and radiation therapy in 129 patients (61%). The 5-year overall survival rate was estimated at 52% (95% CI 45%–59%), with a median survival of 64 months (range 36–136 months). Multivariate regression revealed that older age (HR 1.10, p < 0.01), metastases at the time of diagnosis (HR 2.14, p = 0.01), and undergoing biopsy only (HR 2.98, p < 0.01) significantly and independently predicted a shorter overall survival. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy were not statistically significant.


In this study, the authors found that older patient age, tumor metastases at the time of diagnosis, and undergoing only biopsy significantly and independently predicted poorer outcomes. Only approximately half of patients survived to 5 years. These results have shown a clear survival benefit in pursuing maximal safe resection in pediatric patients with MPNSTs. As such, judicious workup with meticulous resection by an expert team should be considered the standard of care for these tumors in children.