What is a germinoma?
A germinoma is a type of germ cell tumor that is most often found in the brain. Typically, germ cells migrate to the reproductive organs (female ovaries or male testes) during fetal development. However, if these germ cells don't migrate to the correct location, they can become trapped in the brain and multiply in areas where they shouldn’t. There are two main types of germ cell brain tumors; germinomas and non-germinomatous germ cell tumors. Germinomas usually can be cured using chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The specific treatment will depend on the germinoma's location, size, and other characteristics. Non-germinomatous germ cell tumors, which secrete chemicals into the spinal fluid and bloodstream, require more intensive treatment than pure germ cell tumors.
What treatments are available for germinoma tumors?
Our pediatric brain tumor specialists provide unique expertise in treating all forms of pediatric brain tumors, even rare tumors like germinomas. We are dedicated to anticipating any complications that your child may experience and developing the best therapeutic plans to manage them. While biopsies can be done to diagnose germinomas, resection (surgical removal) is generally not needed since most germinomas respond well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
This treatment is important in controlling the local growth of the tumor and preventing the spread of the tumor. Radiation to the whole brain and spinal cord are used to treat certain germinomas that have spread throughout the brain or spine. Local tumors do not require whole brain or spinal radiation.
Different types of chemotherapy drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells and shrink tumors. In patients with germinoma, chemotherapy has been recently added to the treatment regimen in order to permit the use of a lower radiation dose. Chemotherapy can be given intravenously (IV), as direct injection into the bloodstream; orally, as a pill to swallow; intramuscularly, as an injection into the muscle or fat tissue; or intrathecally, as a direct injection into the spinal column through a lumbar puncture.
How we care for germinomas
Although germinomas are very rare, at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, we have helped many infants, children, and adolescents who have been diagnosed with germinoma. Our pediatric Brain Tumor Center is a world-renowned destination for children with malignant and non-malignant brain and spinal cord tumors. Our patients receive treatment from neurologists, neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, and pediatric subspecialists with extensive expertise in all types of brain tumors, including germinomas.