Molecular foundations of primary spinal tumors—implications for surgical management

Tej D. Azad, Bowen Jiang, Chetan Bettegowda


Primary spinal tumors are rare lesions that require careful clinical management due to their intimate relationship with critical neurovascular structures and the significant associated risk of morbidity. While the advent of molecular and genomic profiling is beginning to impact the management of the cranial counterparts, translation for spinal tumors has lagged behind. Maximal safe surgical resection remains the mainstay of patients with primary spinal tumors, with extent of resection and histology the only consistently identified independent predictors of survival. Adjuvant therapy has had limited impact. To develop targeted neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapies, improve prognostication, and enhance patient selection in spinal oncology, a thorough understanding of the current molecular and genomic landscape of spinal tumors is required. In this review, we detail the epidemiology, current standard-of-care, and molecular features of the most commonly encountered intramedullary spinal cord tumors (IMSCT), intradural extramedullary (IDEM) tumors, and primary spinal column malignancies (PSCM). We further discuss current efforts and future opportunities for integrating molecular advances in spinal oncology with clinical management.