Most children with medulloblastoma fall within the standard-risk clinical disease group defined by absence of high-risk features (metastatic disease, large-cell/anaplastic histology, and MYC amplification), which includes 50-60% of patients and has a 5-year event-free survival of 75-85%. Within standard-risk medulloblastoma, patients in the WNT subgroup are established as having a favourable prognosis; however, outcome prediction for the remaining majority of patients is imprecise. We sought to identify novel prognostic biomarkers to enable improved risk-adapted therapies.
The HIT-SIOP PNET 4 trial recruited 338 patients aged 4-21 years with medulloblastoma between Jan 1, 2001, and Dec 31, 2006, in 120 treatment institutions in seven European countries to investigate hyperfractionated radiotherapy versus standard radiotherapy. In this retrospective analysis, we assessed the remaining tumour samples from patients in the HIT-SIOP PNET 4 trial (n=136). We assessed the clinical behaviour of the molecularly defined WNT and SHH subgroups, and identified novel independent prognostic markers and models for standard-risk patients with non-WNT/non-SHH disease. Because of the scarcity and low quality of available genomic material, we used a mass spectrometry-minimal methylation classifier assay (MS-MIMIC) to assess methylation subgroup and a molecular inversion probe array to detect genome-wide copy number aberrations. Prognostic biomarkers and models identified were validated in an independent, demographically matched cohort (n=70) of medulloblastoma patients with non-WNT/non-SHH standard-risk disease treated with conventional therapies (maximal surgical resection followed by adjuvant craniospinal irradiation [all patients] and chemotherapy [65 of 70 patients], at UK Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group and European Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOPE) associated treatment centres between 1990 and 2014. These samples were analysed by Illumina 450k DNA methylation microarray. HIT-SIOP PNET 4 is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01351870.
We analysed methylation subgroup, genome-wide copy number aberrations, and mutational features in 136 assessable tumour samples from the HIT-SIOP PNET 4 cohort, representing 40% of the 338 patients in the trial cohort. This cohort of 136 samples consisted of 28 (21%) classified as WNT, 17 (13%) as SHH, and 91 (67%) as non-WNT/non-SHH (we considered Group3 and Group4 medulloblastoma together in our analysis because of their similar molecular and clinical features). Favourable outcomes for WNT tumours were confirmed in patients younger than 16 years, and all relapse events in SHH (four [24%] of 17) occurred in patients with TP53 mutation (TP53mut) or chromosome 17p loss. A novel whole chromosomal aberration signature associated with increased ploidy and multiple non-random whole chromosomal aberrations was identified in 38 (42%) of the 91 samples from patients with non-WNT/non-SHH medulloblastoma in the HIT-SIOP PNET 4 cohort. Biomarkers associated with this whole chromosomal aberration signature (at least two of chromosome 7 gain, chromosome 8 loss, and chromosome 11 loss) predicted favourable prognosis. Patients with non-WNT/non-SHH medulloblastoma could be reclassified by these markers as having favourable-risk or high-risk disease. In patients in the HIT-SIOP PNET4 cohort with non-WNT/non-SHH medulloblastoma, with a median follow-up of 6·7 years (IQR 5·8-8·2), 5-year event-free survival was 100% in the favourable-risk group and 68% (95% CI 57·5-82·7; p=0·00014) in the high-risk group. In the validation cohort, with a median follow-up of 5·6 years (IQR 3·1-8·1), 5-year event-free survival was 94·7% (95% CI 85·2-100) in the favourable-risk group and 58·6% (95% CI 45·1-76·1) in the high-risk group (hazard ratio 9·41, 95% CI 1·25-70·57; p=0·029). Our comprehensive molecular investigation identified subgroup-specific risk models which allowed 69 (51%) of 134 accessible patients from the standard-risk medulloblastoma HIT-SIOP PNET 4 cohort to be assigned to a favourable-risk group.
We define a whole chromosomal signature that allows the assignment of non-WNT/non-SHH medulloblastoma patients normally classified as standard-risk into favourable-risk and high-risk categories. In addition to patients younger than 16 years with WNT tumours, patients with non-WNT/non-SHH tumours with our defined whole chromosomal aberration signature and patients with SHH-TP53wild-type tumours should be considered for therapy de-escalation in future biomarker-driven, risk-adapted clinical trials. The remaining subgroups of patients with high-risk medulloblastoma might benefit from more intensive therapies.