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Göbel, U.; Calaminus, G.; Schneider, D. T.; Schmidt, P. and Haas, R. J. (2002): Management of germ cell tumors in children: Approaches to cure. In: Onkologie, No. 1: pp. 14-22 [PDF, 119kB]


The introduction of cisplatinum chemotherapy and current advances in the surgical treatment have resulted in a dramatic improvement of the prognosis of children with malignant germ cell tumors (GCT). Cisplatinum chemotherapy generally results in sufficient systemic tumor control, but local relapses may still occur in patients who did not receive adequate local treatment. Therefore, the therapeutic consideration must take into account age, primary site of the tumor, and its histology. In gonadal tumors, there is a high chance of primary complete resection since these tumors tend to be encapsulated, and particularly testicular GCT are often detected at a low tumor stage. In contrast, a primary complete resection may be impossible in large nongonadal tumors such as sacrococcygeal or mediastinal GCT. In these tumors, a neoadjuvant or pre-operative chemotherapy after clinical diagnosis by imaging and evaluation of tumor markers significantly facilitates complete resection on delayed surgery. In addition, the impact of chemotherapy on local tumor control may be enhanced by locoregional hyperthermia. In most intracranial GCT complete resection is impossible and may be associated with significant morbidity. Nevertheless, biopsy is essential for diagnosis in nonsecreting tumors. In intracranial GCT, radiotherapy significantly contributes to local tumor control, and doses are stratified according to histology. These general considerations have been integrated into national and international cooperative treatment protocols. In most current protocols, treatment is stratified according to an initial risk assessment that includes the parameters age, site, histology, stage, completeness of resection and the tumor markers alpha(1)-fetoprotein (AFP) and human choriogonadotropin (beta-HCG). With such modern protocols overall cure rates above 80% can be achieved. Moreover, the previously high-risk groups may now expect a favorable prognosis with this risk-adapted treatment, whereas an increasing number of low-risk patients are treated expectantly or with significantly reduced chemotherapy. As current biologic studies reveal distinct genetic patterns in childhood GCT, it can be expected that further combined clinical and genetic studies will be valuable for risk assessment of childhood GCT.

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