2016 updates to the WHO brain tumor classification system: What the radiologist needs to know

Derek R. Johnson, Julie B. Guerin, Caterina Giannini, Jonathan M. Morris, Lawrence J. Eckel, Timothy J Kaufmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

15 Scopus citations


Radiologists play a key role in brain tumor diagnosis and management and must stay abreast of developments in the field to advance patient care and communicate with other health care providers. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an update to its brain tumor classification system that included numerous significant changes. Several previously recognized brain tumor diagnoses, such as oligoastrocytoma, primitive neuroectodermal tumor, and gliomatosis cerebri, were redefined or eliminated altogether. Conversely, multiple new entities were recognized, including diffuse leptomeningeal glioneuronal tumor and multinodular and vacuolating tumor of the cerebrum. The glioma category has been significantly reorganized, with several infiltrating gliomas in children and adults now defined by genetic features for the first time. These changes were driven by increased understanding of important genetic factors that directly impact tumorigenesis and influence patient care. The increased emphasis on genetic factors in brain tumor diagnosis has important implications for radiology, as we now have tools that allow us to evaluate some of these alterations directly, such as the identification of 2-hydroxyglutarate within infiltrating gliomas harboring mutations in the genes for the isocitrate dehydrogenases. For other tumors, such as medulloblastoma, imaging can demonstrate characteristic patterns that correlate with particular disease subtypes. The purpose of this article is to review the changes to the WHO brain tumor classification system that are most pertinent to radiologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2164-2180
Number of pages17
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

Cite this