BACKGROUND: Ependymoma (EPN) posterior fossa group A (PFA) has the highest rate of recurrence and the worst prognosis of all EPN molecular groups. At relapse, it is typically incurable even with re-resection and re-irradiation. The biology of recurrent PFA remains largely unknown, however, the increasing use of surgery at first recurrence has now provided access to clinical samples to facilitate a better understanding of this. METHODS: In this large longitudinal international multicenter study, we examined matched samples of primary and recurrent disease from PFA patients to investigate the biology of recurrence. RESULTS: DNA methylome derived copy number variants (CNVs) revealed large scale chromosome gains and losses at recurrence. CNV changes were dominated by chromosome 1q gain and/or 6q loss, both previously identified as high-risk factors in PFA, which were present in 23% at presentation but increased to 61% at 1 st recurrence. Multivariate survival analyses of this cohort showed that cases with 1q gain or 6q loss at 1 st recurrence were significantly more likely to recur again. Predisposition to 1q+/6q- CNV changes at recurrence correlated with hypomethylation of heterochromatin-associated DNA at presentation. Cellular and molecular analyses revealed that 1q+/6q- PFA had significantly higher proportions of proliferative neuroepithelial undifferentiated progenitors and decreased differentiated neoplastic subpopulations. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides clinically and preclinically-actionable insights into the biology of PFA recurrence. The hypomethylation predisposition signature in PFA is a potential risk-classifier for trial stratification. We show that the cellular heterogeneity of PFAs evolves largely because of genetic evolution of neoplastic cells.
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