Treatment for Primary rhabdoid tumors of the head and neck

Last Modified: August 21, 2005

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Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My 8-month-old grandson has been diagnosed with a rhabdoid tumor. Can you lend any info on chemo or radiation that he may get to help him? It is located on his cheek and neck on the left side of his face and also in the right side of his brain over his right eye.


Amit Maity, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Primary rhabdoid tumors of the head and neck region are exceedingly rare, hence there is unfortunately very little medical literature available to guide us. I have only treated one such case myself. In that patient, there were positive margins after surgery, so we delivered postoperative radiation. There is, however, far more clinical experience with rhabdoid tumors of the brain. In general, these patients are treated with surgery, intensive chemotherapy, and often local radiation therapy.

I am not sure, from the description provided, whether your grandson's has a rhabdoid tumor of the central nervous system that has metastasized (spread) to the cheek, two separate primary rhabdoid tumors, or a rhabdoid of the cheek that has metastasized to the brain. Therefore, it is difficult for me to make any definitive statements. In general, I can say that there is often a reluctance to use high-dose radiation in infants due to potential long-term treatment side-effects, and so chemotherapy may be the best option.

Hopefully you will learn more through discussions with your grandson's doctors regarding the recommended treatment options.

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