Diffuse intrinsic pontine tumors: a study of primitive neuroectodermal tumors versus the more common diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas

Laboratory investigation

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  • 1 Division of Neuro-Oncology, Department of Pediatrics,
  • 2 Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery,
  • 3 Division of Radiology, and
  • 4 Department of Pathology, The Children's Hospital of Colorado, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado
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Object

The diagnosis of diffuse pontine tumors has largely been made on the basis of MRI since the early 1990s. In cases of tumors considered “typical,” as a rule, no biopsy specimen has been obtained, and the tumors have been considered diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPGs). There have been sporadic reports that primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs) of the pons may not be distinguishable from the DIPGs by radiological imaging. This study presents 2 cases of diffuse pontine PNETs with molecular evidence that these are indeed PNETs, distinct from DIPGs, thus supporting biopsy of diffuse pontine tumors as a standard of care.

Methods

Biopsy specimens were obtained from 7 diffuse pontine tumors and snap frozen. Two of these 7 tumors were identified on the basis of pathological examination as PNETs. All 7 of the diffuse pontine tumors were analyzed for gene expression using the Affymetrix HG-U133 Plus 2.0 GeneChip microarray. Gene expression was compared with that of supratentorial PNETs, medulloblastomas, and low- and high-grade gliomas outside the brainstem.

Results

Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis of gene expression demonstrated that pontine PNETs are most closely related to PNETs of the supratentorial region and not with gliomas. They do not cluster with the 5 DIPGs in the study. Thirty-eight genes, including GATA3, are uniquely differentially expressed in pontine PNETs compared with other types of pediatric brain tumors, including DIPGs and other PNETs at a false discovery rate statistical significance of less than 0.05.

Conclusions

The cluster and individual gene expression analyses indicate that pontine PNETs are intrinsically different from DIPGs. The 2 pontine PNET cases cluster with supratentorial PNETs, rather than with DIPGs, suggesting that these tumors should be treated with a PNET regimen, not with DIPG therapy. Since diagnosis by imaging is not reliable and the biology of the tumors is disparate, a biopsy should be performed to enable accurate diagnosis and direct potentially more effective treatments.

Abbreviations used in this paper:DIPG = diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma; PNET = primitive neuroectodermal tumor.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Alexandra Sufit, B.A., University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Pediatrics mail stop 8302, PO Box 6511, Aurora, Colorado 80045. email: alexandra.sufit@ucdenver.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online June 29, 2012; DOI: 10.3171/2012.3.PEDS11316.

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