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Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors: challenges and search for solutions

Authors Biswas A, Kashyap L, Kakkar A, Sarkar C, Julka P

Received 27 January 2016

Accepted for publication 27 June 2016

Published 16 September 2016 Volume 2016:8 Pages 115—125


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Kenan Onel

Ahitagni Biswas,1 Lakhan Kashyap,1 Aanchal Kakkar,2 Chitra Sarkar,2 Pramod Kumar Julka1

1Department of Radiotherapy & Oncology, 2Department of Pathology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Abstract: Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT) is a highly malignant embryonal central nervous system tumor commonly affecting children <3 years of age. It roughly constitutes 1%–2% of all pediatric central nervous system tumors. Recent data show that it is the most common malignant central nervous system tumor in children <6 months of age. Management of this aggressive tumor is associated with a myriad of diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. On the basis of radiology and histopathology alone, distinction of AT/RT from medulloblastoma or primitive neuroectodermal tumor is difficult, and hence this tumor has been commonly misdiagnosed as primitive neuroectodermal tumor for decades. Presence of a bulky heterogeneous solid-cystic mass with readily visible calcification and intratumor hemorrhage, occurring off-midline in children <3 years of age, should alert the radiologist toward the possibility of AT/RT. Presence of rhabdoid cells on histopathology and polyphenotypic immunopositivity for epithelial, mesenchymal, and neuroectodermal markers along with loss of expression of SMARCB1/INI1 or SMARCA4/BRG1 help in establishing a diagnosis of AT/RT. The optimal management comprises maximal safe resection followed by radiation therapy and multiagent intensive systemic chemotherapy. Gross total excision is difficult to achieve in view of the large tumor size and location and young age at presentation. Leptomeningeal spread is noted in 15%–30% of patients, and hence craniospinal irradiation followed by boost to tumor bed is considered standard in children older than 3 years. However, in younger children, craniospinal irradiation may lead to long-term neurocognitive and neuroendocrine sequel, and hence focal radiation therapy may be a pragmatic approach. In this age group, high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue may also be considered to defer radiation therapy, but this approach is also associated with significant treatment-related morbidity and mortality. Novel small molecule inhibitors hold promise in preclinical studies and should be considered in patients with relapsed or refractory tumor.

Keywords: atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, intracranial, medulloblastoma, primitive neuroectodermal tumor

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