Low-grade gliomas (LGGs) are indolent tumors that have the potential to dedifferentiate into malignant high-grade tumors. Recent studies have demonstrated that cerebellar low-grade tumors have a better prognosis than supratentorial tumors, although no study has focused on the risk factors for poor prognosis in cerebellar LGGs in adults. The authors of the current study aimed to address both of these concerns by using a large cohort derived from a national cancer registry and a smaller cohort derived from their institution's experience.
Adults with diagnosed Grade I and Grade II gliomas of the cerebellum were identified in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. Multivariate Cox proportional hazard models were used to predict rates of survival, and the log-rank test was applied to evaluate differences in Kaplan-Meier survival curves. An institutional cohort was created by isolating all patients whose surgical pathology revealed an LGG of the cerebellum. Excluded from analysis were patients in whom a glioma was first diagnosed under the age of 18 years and those whose tumors could not be definitively determined to arise from the cerebellum.
Data from the local cohort (11 patients) demonstrated that the most common presenting symptom was headache, which occurred in more than 70% of the cohort. Approximately half of the patients in this cohort had symptomatic improvement after treatment. Results from the SEER cohort (166 patients) revealed that adults with Grade I gliomas were slightly younger than those with Grade II tumors (p < 0.01), but no other demographic differences were observed. Patients with Grade I tumors were twice as likely to undergo gross-total resection (54% vs 21%), and those with Grade II gliomas were much more likely to receive postoperative radiation (3% vs 48%). Five-year survival was greater in the patients with Grade I gliomas than in those with Grade II lesions (91% vs 70%). Multivariate analysis revealed that an age ≥ 40 years (HR 7.30, 95% CI 3.55–15.0, p < 0.0001) and Grade II tumors (HR 2.76, 95% CI 1.12–6.84, p = 0.028) were risk factors for death, whereas female sex was protective (HR 0.28, 95% CI 0.14–0.59, p < 0.001). Log-rank tests revealed that a cerebellar location was protective (p < 0.0001), but this relationship was only true for Grade II tumors (p < 0.0001). Survival in patients with Grade I gliomas was not different based on the various lesion locations (p = 0.21).
Taken together, adults with cerebellar WHO Grade I and II astrocytomas have a much more favorable survival curve than those with similar supratentorial tumors. Research demonstrates that the primary driver of this phenomenon is the improved survival in patients with cerebellar Grade II gliomas.