2016 WHO classification of brain and central nervous system tumors

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2016 WHO Classification of Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors

A More Precise Diagnosis Leads to Better Treatment Options 

For the first time since 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reclassified central nervous system (CNS) tumors. Historically, tumors were diagnosed by the way they looked under the microscope (histology). The 2016 updates, informed by leading neuro-oncologists and neuropathologists, recommends a layered approach to classifying a tumor. This approach includes evaluating both:

  • the genetic information of the tumor (molecular markers)
  • and

  • its histology (the way the tumor looks under a microscope)

  • The more specific classification leads to a more accurate prognosis and helps guide treatment, since some treatments have been shown to work better against tumors with certain markers. In addition, it allows for patients to be considered for clinical trials or other therapies that may be appropriate for their specific tumor.

    What’s new?

    The new classification incorporates molecular information that was previously not included. These new entities, variants and patterns, such as IDH wildtype and mutant, help further identify a tumor. 

    The additional molecular detail allows for a more objective and precise approach to classifying a tumor. For example, two tumors may look the same when viewed under a microscope but when their genetic makeup is examined, there are clear differences in the tumors.


    What You Should Consider Before Surgery or Biopsy  

    If you are interested in molecular testing, it is important that the clinical team collects and saves enough tissue during the surgery or biopsy.  The tumor tissue gathered from a surgery or biopsy is what is tested to determine the genetic information.


    Additional Resources

    Please note: The ABTA is in the process of updating its website and materials to reflect the changes from the new classification.