Ependymoma - Childhood: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about ependymoma and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about ependymoma, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to children and teens diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your child’s doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for your child.

  • Adding chemotherapy after surgery and radiation therapy. A recent study from the Children's Oncology Group demonstrated a trend towards improved survival among patients who were treated with chemotherapy. However, this difference did not meet statistical significance, and chemotherapy was associated with additional side effects. Talk with your treating physician if you have questions about the risks and benefits of the addition of chemotherapy after surgery and radiation therapy.

  • Strategies to enhance radiation therapy. Research is ongoing on several ways to plan and give radiation therapy. These include:

    • The use of radiation therapy has often been avoided in infants and young children. However, there is increasing research that shows that radiation therapy works well and has relatively few side effects for children as young as 1 year old.

    • New techniques for planning and giving radiation therapy are also being studied that better target the tumor, causing less damage to healthy parts of the brain.

    • Proton beam therapy is a type of external-beam radiation therapy that uses protons rather than x-rays to destroy cancer cells.

  • Tumor genetics. New research has shown that there are several different subgroups of ependymoma that differ based on the patterns of changes to the genes within each tumor. Studies are being done to find out if these genetic differences are associated with prognosis and if they can help identify new targeted ways to treat ependymoma. Learn more about the basics of targeted therapy

  • New combinations of chemotherapy and other treatments. New types of chemotherapy and combinations of other drugs are being researched with the goal of shrinking any tumor that remains after surgery. This use of chemotherapy is allowing doctors to perform additional surgery for children with ependymoma that was not completely removed during the original surgery. In addition, the use of chemotherapy after radiation therapy is being studied to find out if the combination can better manage tumor growth over the long term.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment approach that uses the body's immune system to attack a tumor. Examples of immunotherapy include drugs that activate the immune system, modifying immune system cells to target cancer cells, and tumor vaccines. There are currently clinical trials being done to determine if immunotherapy could be a possible treatment for children with ependymoma. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy

  • Predicting recurrences. The molecular features of a specific tumor are being studied to find out if they can help doctors predict the likelihood that the cancer will come back after treatment.

  • Palliative and supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current ependymoma treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in childhood cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your child’s diagnosis, talk with your child’s doctor or search online clinical trial databases.

  • Visit the Cancer.Net Blog to review information, news, and research on childhood cancer announced at recent scientific meetings or in ASCO's peer-reviewed journals.

  • Visit the website of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a different ASCO website.

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that ependymoma and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.