Department of Pathology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
July 2003, Case 307-1.
A 32 year-old Woman with a Ventricular Tumor
Chimène Kesserwan, M.D. and Richard W. Leech, M.D. Last update: July 30, 2003.
Department of Pathology, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Clinical information: The patient was a 32 year-old woman who presented with recent change in mental status. Imaging studies revealed an exophytic tumor in the third ventricle that expanded the third ventricle and caused hydrocephalus.
Pathology of the case:
Click thumbnails to see pictures.
Panel A and B are low-magnification photomicrographs featuring solid sheets of isomorphous, small round to ovoid neoplastic cells with a delicate but rich vascular network. There are also intervening irregular patches of fibrillary neuropils. At high-magnification, the tumor cells appear as fairly uniform round to polygonal cells with perinuclear halo (Panel C). An island of neuropil is present in Panel D. The tumor cells are immunoreactive for synaptophysin (Panel E). The tumor cells were not immunoreactive for neurofilament proteins. At the ultrastructural level, the neoplastic cells contain numerous cell processes filled with vessicles and dense core granules (Panel F and G). Dense core granules and vescicles in high-mangification are shown in Panel H. The vesicles have structures similar to that of the synaptic vesicles, a feature of neuronal differentiation.
DIAGNOSIS: Central neurocytoma
Discussion: General information Imaging features Pathology Atypical behavior Differential diagnosis
Central neurocytoma was first described by Hassoun
et al., in 1982
It is a rare tumor of the central nervous system with neurocytic differentiation
and favorable prognoris. In the four-tier World Health Organization (WHO)
Classification of Tumors of the Nervous System, it corresponds to a grade II/IV
tumor. Although neurocytoma comprises only 0.25-0.5% of all intracranial tumors,
they are the most frequent intraventricular tumor in adults. They occur
predominantly in the third and fourth decades but can be seen in other age group
2. About three-quarter of the cases
occur in the lateral ventricles with the foramina of Monro as the most common
sites, the remaining one-quarter of the cases occur in the third ventricles.
Rarely, they can occur in the cerebral hemispheres.
ventricular location makes symptoms and signs of hydrocephalus the most common
manifestations. The acuteness of clinical manifestations is variable. Uncommonly intraventricular hemorrhage can be the initial cause for medical attention. The
5-year survival rate of patients with classic neurocytoma is 81% as per one
The MRI images of central neurocytoma are usually characteristic. Most of them occur
as an exophytic, well circumscribed, globular mass that protrudes into the
ventricles. Large tumors are not uncommon. Calcifications are common and easily
identified by CT scans. Central neurocytomas that arise in the lateral
ventricles typically adhere to the septum pellucidum. Hydrocephalus is common.
On T2-weighted image, they are isointense to gray matter. Contrast enhancement
is common but variable and it can be intense. From the imaging point of view,
the differential diagnoses include heterotopia, oligodendroglioma, ependymoma,
subependymoma, subependymal giant cell astrocytoma, choroids plexus papilloma,
and intraventricular meningioma
the lesional tissue is soft, tan and well demarcated from the adjacent brain
parenchyma tissue. Some of the tumors are partly cystic.
The consistency varies from soft to gritty, depending on the amount of
calcification. Since they do not regularly permeate into the surrounding brain
parenchyma, the amount of surrounding brain parenchyma attached to the tumor is
often minimal in biopsy tissue. However, secondary attachment of the tumor to
the surrounding ventricular surfaces made gross total excision not always
the tumor is composed of solid sheets of small, round to polygonal, isomorphic
tumor cells with distinct cell membrane. Within the neoplastic cells is a
delicate vascular network. Microcalcifications, when present, are distributed
throughout the tumor. The cytoplasm is fine and amphophilic. Perinuclear halo is
usually present and prominent, leading to an impression of a clear cell tumor.
The summation of these features generates a “honey-comb” pattern similar to
that of oligodendroglioma and clear cell ependymoma. The nuclei of neurocytoma
are round, small, and contain fine and speckled chromatin. Nucleoli are
indistinct. Mitotic figures are not readily seen or infrequent. Irregular and
small islands of neuropils are present. Perivascular arrangement of neuropils in
some areas may closely mimic the coronary perivascular fibrillary hypocellular
mantles (perivascular pseudorosettes) that are considered evidence of ependymoma.
The real ependymal pseudorosettes are more orderly and fibrillary. A high index
of suspicion is important to avoid this trap.
intraoperative consultations, cytologic preparations and frozen sections often
show features suggestive of a low-grade glial neoplasm. The variation of nuclear
size in the cytologic preparation may exceed that in the frozen section and
paraffin sections. Nuclei also tend to be more angulated in frozen sections.
The monotonous, small, and bland nuclei may raise the suspicion of an
oligodendroglioma. The location of the tumor is very helpful to prevent calling
these tumors glial tumors.
central neurocytomas have features of neuronal differentiation that include
delicate cytoplasmic processes, microtubules, dense core granules and synaptic
bouton-like structures. Intermediate
filaments are exceptional. Dense-core granules of 60-160 nm are abundant. Clear
vesicles of 40-60 nm of the pre-synaptic type and specialized syanptic junctions
can also be seen
also bear immunoactivity for synaptophysin. Immunoreactivity for chromogranin
and neurofilament proteins is usually lacking. Slightly more than half of the
cases in one study express a photoreceptor antigen 5.
Reactive astrocytes, often in the form of stellate shaped cells with long
cytoplasmic process, are well demonstrated by immunohistochemistry for glial
fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP).
a small subset of neurocytoma cells coexpress synaptophysin and GFAP and suggest
an origin from a pluripotential neuroglial precursor. Neurocytoma cells in
culture form a cellular mosaic similar to subependymal layer that contains
mitotically active cells, neurons and glial cells 6.
This notion is supported by in vitro studies 7.
These studies suggest that neurocytoma cells exhibit both neural and glial
phenotypes and have the properties reminiscent of precursor cells derived from
subventricular matrix. Perhaps it is best to view neurocytoma as a glial
neuronal tumor with predominantly neurocytic differentiation.
et al, through LOH, FISH and differential PCR studies suggest that central
neurocytomas are genetically distinct from oligodendrogliomas and neuroblastomas
This finding probably shed more light on the pathogenesis of neurocytoma and
oligodendroglioma than on the differentiation of the two tumors.
This tumor is classically considered as benign tumor. However aggressive behavior has been described in some cases that atypical histological featuers and elevated proliferation index 9. Features associated with aggressive behavior include microvascular proliferation, mitosis and necrosis 10. In one series, the histological and immunohistochemical criteria of biological aggressiveness appeared to be high mitotic activity, tumor necrosis, loss of neuronal differentiation. The proliferation index as evaluated by immunostaining for MIB-1 staining is under 2.3% in classic neurocytomas but over 5.2% in atypical neurocytomas in one study 11. In another study, 22% of the neurocytomas with a MIB-1 labeling index below 2% relapse. In contrast, 63% of neurocytomas with MIB-1 labeling index over 2% relapse 12. These case are best termed atypical neurocytoma.
neurocytomas can be confused with oligodendroglioma, clear cell ependymoma,
astrocytoma with prominent protoplasmic component, and, less likely,
dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor (DNET) arising in the third ventricle..
rarely present as intraventricular mass. Although both neurocytomas and
oligodendrogliomas share the “honey-comb” architecture, the cytoplasm in
neurocytomas tend to be richer and less clear. Genuine neuropil islands are not
readily seen in oligodendrogliomas. Immunohistochemically, neurocytomas are
positive for synaptophysin but oligodendrogliomas are not. In contrast, negative
tumor cells embedded with entrapped brain parenchymal tissue that is
immunoreactive for both synaptophysin and neurofilaments are seen in
|Click thumbnail to see a low-magnification picture of an oligodendroglioma. Note the "randomly regular" distribution of the tumor cells and the delicate but rich vascular network. Peirnuclear clearing can also be well appreciated at this magnification.||Click thumbnail to see a medium-magnification picture of an oligodendroglioma. Peirnuclear clearing and the "honey-comb" pattern are well appreciated at this magnification.||Click thumbnail to see a high-magnification picture of an oligodendroglioma. Note the isomorphous, small, round nuclei with perinuclear halo.|
cell ependymoma closely mimic oligodendrogliomas and neurocytomas. They tend to
occur as well-demarcated, deeply located, contrast-enhancing masses in young
patients, usually under 30 years of age. Classic
areas of ependymal differentiation are usually seen
Ependymomas are reactive for GFAP and epithelial membrane antigen (EMA).
Electron microscopy will also recognize features of ependymal differentiation
that include complex
intercellular junctions, surface microvilli and cilia, and microrosette
contrast, dense core granules are present in ependymomas.
so-called “ependymomas of the foramen of Monro” typically are composed
of clear cells and lack classic morphologic features of ependymomas
These tumors being described before the era of synaptophysin are, in fact, central neurocytomas.
with substantial protoplasmic component usually contain areas with fibrillary
and/or gemistocytic differentiation. Although immunoreactivity for GFAP in the
protoplasmic areas may be weak, strong immunoreactivity are seen in other areas.
They also lack immunoreactivity for syanptophysin.
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H, Morrison AL, Jones RV, Gyure KA.
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Cases of the Month Evaluation Coordinator: KarMing-Fung@ouhsc.edu