Germ Cell Brain Tumors

What are germ cell brain tumors?

Germ cell brain tumors develop from germ cells — the cells that later become sperm in the testicles or eggs in the ovaries during the fetal period. These cells may get trapped in the brain. Most germ cell tumors are found in the ovaries (ovarian tumors) or testes (testicular tumors), but when they are located in the brain they are called intracranial germ cell tumors, or germ cell tumors of the brain. Germ cell tumors that develop in the brain or spinal cord also may be called CNS (central nervous system) germ cell tumors. 

There are two main types of germ cell tumors of the brain: germinomas and non-germinomatous tumors. If they include aspects of both, they are called mixed germ cell tumors. These tumors are rare, accounting for approximately 4 percent of pediatric brain tumors. Around half occur in children between the ages of 10 and 15. Germ cell tumors of the brain most commonly involve or are found near the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain.

How we care for germ cell brain tumors

Children with germ cell brain tumors are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Brain Tumor Center, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric brain tumor treatment programs in the world. Our brain tumor specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of brain tumors, including germ cell brain tumors. Our patients receive care from neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.

Our areas of research for germ cell brain tumors

Clinical trials, or research studies evaluating new treatment approaches, are a major offering at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. For many children with brain tumors or other rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

In addition to launching our own brain tumor 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 progressive or recurrent tumor, they may be eligible for a number of experimental therapies available through these groups, or from one of our independent clinical investigators.

Participation in any clinical trial is completely voluntary. We will take care to fully explain all elements of the treatment plan prior to the start of the trial, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.