Germ Cell Tumors

General Information | Treatment Options | Resources

 

Treatment
  • Overview
  • Standard Treatment
  • Clinical Trials
  • Treatment By Type

Different types of treatment are available for children with extracranial germ cell tumors. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Experienced doctors working together may provide the best treatment for children with extracranial germ cell tumors. Your child’s treatment will often be coordinated by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer in children. The pediatric oncologist may refer your child to other specialists, such as a pediatric surgeon, a psychologist, a radiation oncologist, and other doctors who specialize in the type of treatment your child requires.

Treatment for extracranial germ cell tumor depends upon the location of the tumor, the stage of the tumor, and the type of tumor. The types of treatment used for extracranial germ cell tumor are:

  • Surgery (cutting the tumor out of the body)
  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill tumor cells)

More than one method of treatment may be used, depending on the type of extracranial germ cell tumor and how much cancer the patient has in his or her body. Complete or near complete surgical removal of the tumor is often possible. If the tumor cannot be completely removed, chemotherapy may also be given.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be taken by mouth or injected into a vein (intravenous) or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. In the following lists of treatments for the different types of childhood extracranial germ cell tumors, a link to search results for current clinical trials is included for each section. These have been retrieved from NCI's clinical trials database. For some types of tumors, there may not be any trials listed. Check with your child's doctor for clinical trials that are not listed here but that may be right for your child.

Childhood Mature and Immature Teratomas

Treatment will depend on whether the tumor is a mature or immature teratoma. If the tumor is a mature teratoma, the treatment will be surgery to remove the tumor and possibly some of the surrounding tissues or structures. If the tumor is an immature teratoma, treatment will be surgery with or without chemotherapy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with childhood teratoma.

Childhood Malignant Testicular Germ Cell Tumor

Treatment will depend on the age of the child. The majority of childhood malignant testicular germ cell tumors occur in boys younger than 4 years of age. Surgery is the most common form of treatment for testicular germ cell tumor. A doctor may take out the tumor by removing one or both testicles through an incision (cut) in the groin. This is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy. Treatment for boys younger than 5 years of age will be radical inguinal orchiectomy with or without chemotherapy.

The treatment for adolescents and young adults with testicular germ cell tumor is the same as the treatment for adults. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Testicular Cancer for more information.)

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with childhood malignant testicular germ cell tumor.

Childhood Malignant Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor

Treatment will depend on the age of the child and the specific tumor type. Surgery is the most common form of treatment for ovarian germ cell tumor. A doctor may take out the cancer using one of the following operations:

  • Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: taking out the ovary with the cancer and the fallopian tube on the same side
  • Tumor debulking: taking out as much of the cancer as possible

Treatment for young girls with early stage ovarian germ cell tumor will be unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Treatment for young girls with advanced stage ovarian germ cell tumor will be unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with or without chemotherapy.

The treatment for adolescents and young adults with ovarian germ cell tumor is similar to the treatment for adults. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors for more information.)

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with childhood malignant ovarian germ cell tumor.

Childhood Extragonadal Malignant Germ Cell Tumor

Treatment for childhood extragonadal malignant germ cell tumor depends on the size and location of the tumor. Treatment for smaller tumors will be surgery to remove the tumor followed by chemotherapy. Treatment for larger tumors will be a biopsy (a surgical procedure to remove a small portion of the tumor) followed by chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor, possibly followed by surgery to remove any remaining tumor.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with childhood extragonadal germ cell tumor.

Recurrent Childhood Malignant Germ Cell Tumor

Due to the small number of childhood extracranial germ cell tumors and the effectiveness of treatment, the number of patients who have tumors that return is small. Treatment for patients with recurrent germ cell tumor will usually be chemotherapy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry that are now accepting patients with recurrent childhood malignant germ cell tumor.

Cancer information from the NCI PDQ service