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Time, pattern, and outcome of medulloblastoma relapse and their association with tumour biology at diagnosis and therapy: a multicentre cohort study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rebecca Hill, Dr Stacey Richardson, Dr Ed Schwalbe, Dr Debbie Hicks, Dr Janet Lindsey, Dr Stephen Crosier, Dr Reza Rafiee, Dr Yura Grabovska, Dr Daniel Williamson, Professor Simon BaileyORCiD, Professor Steven CliffordORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4·0 licenseBackground: Disease relapse occurs in around 30% of children with medulloblastoma, and is almost universally fatal. We aimed to establish whether the clinical and molecular characteristics of the disease at diagnosis are associated with the nature of relapse and subsequent disease course, and whether these associations could inform clinical management. Methods: In this multicentre cohort study we comprehensively surveyed the clinical features of medulloblastoma relapse (time to relapse, pattern of relapse, time from relapse to death, and overall outcome) in centrally reviewed patients who relapsed following standard upfront therapies, from 16 UK Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group institutions and four collaborating centres. We compared these relapse-associated features with clinical and molecular features at diagnosis, including established and recently described molecular features, prognostic factors, and treatment at diagnosis and relapse. Findings: 247 patients (175 [71%] boys and 72 [29%] girls) with medulloblastoma relapse (median year of diagnosis 2000 [IQR 1995–2006]) were included in this study. 17 patients were later excluded from further analyses because they did not meet the age and treatment criteria for inclusion. Patients who received upfront craniospinal irradiation (irradiated group; 178 [72%] patients) had a more prolonged time to relapse compared with patients who did not receive upfront craniospinal irradiation (non-irradiated group; 52 [21%] patients; p<0·0001). In the non-irradiated group, craniospinal irradiation at relapse (hazard ratio [HR] 0·27, 95% CI 0·11–0·68) and desmoplastic/nodular histology (0·23, 0·07–0·77) were associated with prolonged time to death after relapse, MYC amplification was associated with a reduced overall survival (23·52, 4·85–114·05), and re-resection at relapse was associated with longer overall survival (0·17, 0·05–0·57). In the irradiated group, patients with MBGroup3 tumours relapsed significantly more quickly than did patients with MBGroup4 tumours (median 1·34 [0·99–1·89] years vs 2·04 [1·39–3·42 years; p=0·0043). Distant disease was prevalent in patients with MBGroup3 (23 [92%] of 25 patients) and MBGroup4 (56 [90%] of 62 patients) tumour relapses. Patients with distantly-relapsed MBGroup3 and MBGroup4 displayed both nodular and diffuse patterns of disease whereas isolated nodular relapses were rare in distantly-relapsed MBSHH (1 [8%] of 12 distantly-relapsed MBSHH were nodular alone compared with 26 [34%] of 77 distantly-relapsed MBGroup3 and MBGroup4). In MBGroup3 and MBGroup4, nodular disease was associated with a prolonged survival after relapse (HR 0·42, 0·21–0·81). Investigation of second-generation MBGroup3 and MBGroup4 molecular subtypes refined our understanding of heterogeneous relapse characteristics. Subtype VIII had prolonged time to relapse and subtype II had a rapid time from relapse to death. Subtypes II, III, and VIII developed a significantly higher incidence of distant disease at relapse whereas subtypes V and VII did not (equivalent rates to diagnosis). Interpretation: This study suggests that the nature and outcome of medulloblastoma relapse are biology and therapy-dependent, providing translational opportunities for improved disease management through biology-directed disease surveillance, post-relapse prognostication, and risk-stratified selection of second-line treatment strategies. Funding: Cancer Research UK, Action Medical Research, The Tom Grahame Trust, The JGW Patterson Foundation, Star for Harris, The Institute of Child Health - Newcastle University - Institute of Child Health High-Risk Childhood Brain Tumour Network (co-funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, Great Ormond Street Children's Charity, and Children with Cancer UK).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hill RM, Richardson S, Schwalbe EC, Hicks D, Lindsey JC, Crosier S, Rafiee G, Grabovska Y, Wharton SB, Jacques TS, Michalski A, Joshi A, Pizer B, Williamson D, Bailey S, Clifford SC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health

Year: 2020

Volume: 4

Issue: 12

Pages: 865-874

Online publication date: 22/10/2020

Acceptance date: 02/04/2020

Date deposited: 12/01/2021

ISSN (print): 2352-4642

ISSN (electronic): 2352-4650

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.


DOI: 10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30246-7


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Funder referenceFunder name
Action Medical Research
Cancer Research UK
The JGW Patterson Foundation
Star for Harris
The Institute of Child Health - Newcastle University - Institute of Child Health High-Risk Childhood Brain Tumour Network
The Tom Grahame Trust