Tumours of the spinal cord, although rare, are associated with high morbidity. Surgical resection remains the primary treatment for patients with this disease, and offers the best chance for cure. Such surgical procedures, however, carry substantial risks such as worsening of neurological deficit, paralysis and death. New therapeutic avenues for spinal cord tumours are needed, but genetic studies of the molecular mechanisms governing tumourigenesis in the spinal cord are limited by the scarcity of high-quality human tumour samples. Many spinal cord tumours have intracranial counterparts that have been extensively studied, but emerging data show that the tumours are genetically and biologically distinct. The differences between brain and spine tumours make extrapolation of data from one to the other difficult. In this Review, we describe the demographics, genetics and current treatment approaches for the most commonly encountered spinal cord tumours-namely, ependymomas, astrocytomas, haemangioblastomas and meningiomas. We highlight advances in understanding of the biological basis of these lesions, and explain how the latest progress in genetics and beyond are being translated to improve patient care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience