What is medulloblastoma?

Medulloblastoma is a brain tumor located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, coordination, and other complex motor functions. Medulloblastomas grow most often in the central part of the cerebellum and less frequently in the outer parts of the cerebellum. Medulloblastoma accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all pediatric brain tumors and occur most commonly in children between the ages of three and eight but can be seen in children and adults of any age. There are about 350 cases of medulloblastoma diagnosed each year in the United States.

The outcomes for children with medulloblastoma have improved dramatically over the past several decades. Doctors historically have classified medulloblastoma as either standard or high risk based on biopsy results. In recent years, however, studies have shown that what we call medulloblastoma could actually be several different diseases. In fact, medulloblastoma can be divided into four molecular subtypes based on specific types of gene mutations within the tumor. Each subtype has a distinct survival rate, ranging from 20 to 90 percent.

How we care for medulloblastoma

Children with medulloblastoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Medulloblastoma Treatment Program. Our pediatric brain tumor specialists provide a unique degree of specialization across many disciplines, which translates into advanced treatment options for children with medulloblastoma. We offer technological advances such as the intra-operative MRI, which allows our pediatric neurosurgeons to obtain an MRI immediately in the operating room before the operation is complete and remove as much of the tumor as possible. We also offer expert diagnosis and consultation by neuropathologists who use advanced molecular diagnostic testing with access to unique clinical trials from our own investigators, the Children’s Oncology Group, and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Consortium.

Because brain tumors in children, including medulloblastoma, behave differently than those in adults, it's important for families to seek a pediatric center with specific expertise in treating childhood brain tumors.