What is an ependymoma?

An ependymoma is a tumor that arises from cells that are found lining the ventricular system (areas of the brain or spinal cord where spinal fluid is found). These tumors can form in any of the ventricles in the brain or spinal cord, but most ependymomas arise in the fourth ventricle and affect the cerebellum and the brain stem.

Ependymomas account for 5 to 10 percent of pediatric brain tumors and occur equally in boys and girls. These types of tumors are the third most common brain tumor in children. Though ependymomas rarely occur in the spinal cord, they do account for about 25 percent of all spinal cord tumors. Most patients with tumors of the spinal cord are older than 12.

What are the symptoms of epedymomas?

Brain tumors can cause a variety of symptoms in children depending on their size and location. Keep in mind that the symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other more common conditions or medical problems. It is important to consult your child's physician if you have concerns.

Ependymoma symptoms are most often associated with increased pressure in the brain and can include:

  • headache — generally upon awakening in the morning
  • hydrocephalus
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • problems eating or walking

How we care for ependymomas

Children with ependymomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Brain Tumor Center, a world-renowned destination for children with malignant and non-malignant brain and spinal cord tumors. Our brain tumor specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of brain tumors, including ependymomas.

Our areas of research for ependymomas

Clinical trials, or research studies, are ways of evaluating new treatment approaches. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s is a very experienced and leading institution in developing new treatments for brain tumors. Clinical trials are very important for children with hard-to-treat or relapsed conditions.

It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of our brain tumor clinical trials. In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer trials available through collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and the Pacific Neuro-oncology Consortium (PNOC). We are also the New England Phase I Center of the Children's Oncology Group. If your child has a progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of clinical trials available through these groups, or from one of our independent clinical investigators.