Applications of molecular neuro-oncology - A review of diffuse glioma integrated diagnosis and emerging molecular entities

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40 Scopus citations


Insights into the molecular underpinnings of primary central nervous system tumors have radically changed the approach to tumor diagnosis and classification. Diagnostic emphasis has shifted from the morphology of a tumor under the microscope to an integrated approach based on morphologic and molecular features, including gene mutations, chromosomal copy number alterations, and gene rearrangements. In 2016, the World Health Organization provided guidelines for making an integrated diagnosis that incorporates both morphologic and molecular features in a subset of brain tumors. The integrated diagnosis now applies to infiltrating gliomas, a category that includes diffusely infiltrating astrocytoma grades II, III, and IV, and oligodendroglioma, grades II and III, thereby encompassing the most common primary intra-axial central nervous system tumors. Other neoplasms such as medulloblastoma, embryonal tumor with multilayered rosettes, certain supratentorial ependymomas, and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor are also eligible for integrated diagnosis, which can sometimes be aided by characteristic immunohistochemical markers. Since 2016, advances in molecular neuro-oncology have resulted in periodic updates and clarifications to the integrated diagnostic approach. These advances reflect expanding knowledge on the molecular pathology of brain tumors, but raise a challenge in rapidly incorporating new molecular findings into diagnostic practice. This review provides a background on the molecular characteristics of primary brain tumors, emphasizing the molecular basis for classification of infiltrating gliomas, the most common entities that are eligible for an integrated diagnosis. We then discuss entities within the diffuse gliomas that do not receive an integrated diagnosis by WHO 2016 criteria, but have distinctive molecular features that are important to recognize because their clinical behavior can influence clinical management and prognosis. Particular attention is given to the histone H3 G34R/G34V mutant astrocytomas, an entity to consider when faced with an infiltrating glioma in the cerebral hemisphere of children and young adults, and to the group of histologically lower grade diffuse astrocytic gliomas with molecular features of glioblastoma, an important category of tumors to recognize due to their aggressive clinical behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalDiagnostic Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 9 2019


  • Brain tumors
  • Diffuse glioma
  • Integrated diagnosis
  • Molecular pathology
  • WHO 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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