Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Neuropathology Goes Hollywood: "Concussion" Opens in Theaters December 2015

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first neuropathologist to draw a connections between playing football and the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is featured in a movie starring Will Smith slated to open in December. Check out the trailer!
Will Smith portraying Bennet Omalu, MD in the movie "Concussion"
Not surprisingly, according to a New York Times report, the National Football League intervened in the making of the film so that the final cut would not vilify the nation's most-watched game.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Best Post of January 2015: Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti steps down as director of national prion surveillance center

The next in our "Best of the Month" series comes from January 5, 2015:


Pierluigi Gambetti, MD
Dr. Pierluigi Gambetti has stepped down as director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center. In a letter to members of the American Association of Neuropathologists, Dr. Gambetti writes:

"I will be resigning as Director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center effective January 1, 2015. I will continue to be associated with the Center in an advisory position and as consultant for special cases. Dr. Jiri Safar, Associate Professor of Pathology and Neurology at Case Western Reserve University, will be the new director."

Dr. Gambetti goes on to state that the NPDPSC "will remain unchanged", continuing to coordinate autopsies on suspected prion disease cases. Dr. Mark Cohen will continue to have primary responsibility for the histologic and immunohistochemical assessment of cases.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

College of American Pathologists Neuropathology Committee Meets this Weekend

I am delighted to be in Chicago this weekend meeting with my wonderful colleagues on the College of American Pathologists Neuropathology (CAP-NP) Committee. We are making plans for a SAM-eligible educational product that will update you on the 2015 iteration of the World Health Organization Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System. The new WHO book is set to be published in October of this year; and we on the committee are making plans to create a CD to be issued a year from now designed to keep you in the loop regarding the latest in CNS tumor classification. This weekend's meeting also marks the end of Dr. Dan Brat's tenure as CAP-NP chairman. Dr. Brat will  be replaced by the illustrious Dr. Eyas Hattab at the helm of the CAP-NP Committee. After a long day at work today on the CAP-NP educational product, committee members retired to Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse for some well-deserved nourishment before returning to finish up our work tomorrow. In addition to Drs. Brat, Hattab, and myself, current committee members include Drs. Bill Hickey, Joe Ma, Roger McLendon, Matthew Schneiderjan, Aaron Wagner, Cynthia Welsh, and junior member Matthew Cykowski.

Rania Hattab (wife of Dr. Eyas Hattab) and Dr. Joe Ma enjoy a morsel of chocolate cake at tonight's CAP-NP dinner

Outgoing CAP-NP committee members Dr. Dan Brat and Dr. Cynthia Welsh will be sorely missed

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Tumor Biomarker Series: INI1

This is the last in my tumor biomarker series -- at least until future significant biomarkers are established. I conclude this series with a short description of INI1, a marker for atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT). A clinically aggressive embryonal tumor of infancy, AT/RT is characterized by mutations in SMARCB1/INI1 (HSNF5). Immunohistochemical evaluation of AT/RT for the INI1 protein using the BAF47 antibody shows a loss of labelling in tumor cell nuclei, with retention of staining in internal positive control cells such as endothelial cells. Since AT/RT has morphologic overlap with medulloblastoma, CNS PNET, choroid plexus carcinoma, GBM, and other malignant tumors of childhood, INI1 immunohistochemistry is extremely useful in arriving at a diagnosis of AT/RT. A diagnosis of AT/RT carries implications for genetic counseling as this tumor -- in about a one-third of cases -- is a component of the rhabdoid tumor predisposition syndrome (RTPS) wherein there is a germline mutation of SMARCB1/INI1. Because of the risk associated with RTPS, the germline status of SMARCB/INI1 is typically assessed for each new case of AT/RT.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Best Post of December 2014: The Einstein/Rorke-Adams Connection

The next in our "Best of the Month" series comes from Tuesday, December 16, 2014:



Dr. Lucy Rorke-Adams
I'm not sure how many in the neuropathology community know this, but our renowned colleague Lucy Rorke-Adams donated slices of Albert Einstein's brain to the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library in Philadelphia. Rorke-Adams, a senior neuropathologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, donated the 46 slices of brain tissue to the museum in 2011. Rorke-Adams had received the slides as a gift from local doctor, who in turn had received them from his colleague, a neuropathologist who examined the slides on behalf of Thomas Harvey, the man who removed Einstein's brain during an autopsy in 1955. Guess where my first stop will be on my next visit to Philly?

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Tumor Biomarker Series: Medulloblastoma Markers

Four subgroups of medulloblastoma have been defined based on genetic alterations:

Wingless (WNT) - WNT medulloblastomas display monosomy 6 and most show nuclear accumulation of the WNT pathway protein beta-catenin, which serves as a useful immunohistochemical screen for this group. Medulloblasomas with more than 50% nuclear staining for beta-catenin have been shown to have WNT pathway activation, whereas those with only focal nuclear staining do not. Overall survival for WNT medulloblastomas are dramatically longer than those of other subtypes, and clinical practices surrounding the treatment of this subtype reflects this better prognosis.

Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) - SHH medulloblastomas often show a nodular/desmoplastic histopathology and are associated with a better prognosis in younger children and infants. 9q deletion is characteristic, and MYCN amplifications are occasionally noted. GAB1 is expressed in the cytoplasm of nearly all SHH medulloblastomas but not in other groups and can be detected imunohistochemically, making it a valuable SHH-group marker.  Targeted therapies directed at this subgroup have been established and are entering clinical practice.

"Group 3" - Group 3 medulloblastomas have the worst overall prognosis, have a high incidence of large cell/anaplastic histology, and are very frequently metastatic. This group contains the vast majority of MYC amplified tumors, with MYC amplification being a strong negative prognostic factor. It has been suggested that Group 3 tumors should perhaps be re-named MYC medulloblastomas, but wide agreement has not been reached on this designation. Group 3 tumors occur more commonly in males than females, and are found in infants and children, but almost never in adults.


"Group 4" - Group 4 medulloblastomas classically harbor isochromosome 17q; but as the molecular pathogenesis of this group is not currently clear, the generic name "Group 4" remains the consensus designation. Although isochromosome 17q is also seen in Group 3 tumors, it is much more common in Group 4. KCNA1 has been suggested as an immunohistochemical marker for this group, but this requires validation.  The only other notable cytogeneic change seen in Group 4 tumors is loss of X chromosome, which is seen in 80% of females with this tumor subtype. Group 4 patients have an intermediate prognosis, similar to patients with SHH tumors.

In conclusion, the worst prognosis is associated  with Group 3 medulloblastoma; Group 4 and SHH have an intermediate prognosis; and WNT medulloblastoma tends to have the best prognosis.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Neuropathologist Kevin Roth named Chair at Columbia and Pathologist-in-Chief at New York-Presbyterian

Dr.. Kevin Roth, MD, currently chair of pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named chair of the Columbia's Department of Pathology & Cell Biology and pathologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian, effective September 1, 2015.  Dr. Roth succeeds Michael Shelanski, MD, PhD, also a neuropathologist, following his 28-year tenure as chair of the department.

Although Dr. Shelanski is stepping down, his is remaining on staff at the department. Dr. Roth's addition will therefore bring to seven the number of neuropathologists practicing at Columbia, including Drs. Jim Goldman, Peter Canoll, Phyllis Faust, Jean-Paul Vonsattel, and Andy Teich.  


Kevin A. Roth, MD, PhD

Dr. Roth’s professional training included a combined anatomic pathology and neuropathology residency at Washington University in St. Louis, where he was later appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology.  Dr. Roth rose through the faculty ranks to become a tenured professor in the Departments of Pathology and Immunology and Molecular Biology and Pharmacology there before moving to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was named chair of the Department of Pathology in 2008.
Dr. Roth serves as president of the American Society for Investigative Pathology, chair of the Neural Oxidative Metabolism and Death (NOMD) Study Section, and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Pathology, which is devoted to elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of disease pathogenesis.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Third Day at 2015 American Association of Neuropathologists Meeting: Gene therapy, Amyloid Angiopathy, and the Diagnostic Slide Session

Day #3 of the annual AANP meeting commenced with a series of interesting platform sessions. Of particular note was a presentation by Dr. Michael Lawlor on results of AAV8-MTM1 gene therapy to correct muscle dysfunction in a canine model of X-linked myotubular myopathy. Dr. Lawlor showed some dramatic videos of puppies with severe muscular dysfunction who were restored to fully normal motor function after as little as one gene therapy treatment. As one audience member commented: "It's a relief, after all these years of experimentation, to see a case where gene therapy actually works!" The Korey Lecture in the morning was delivered by Dr. Matthew Frosch, who addressed cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). While all neuropathologists recognize the risk of cerebral hemorrhage associated with CAA, Dr. Frosch focused on a subset of CAA patients with associated granulomatous inflammation who show cognitive decline and seizures. This subset can show dramatic improvement with immunosuppressive therapy. Among the more emotional moments of the meeting occurred today Meritorious Awards were bestowed upon two individuals who have made a significant impact on neuropathology both in scientific achievement and in service. This year's awards went to Drs. Bette K. Kleinschmidt-DeMasters and John Q. Trojanowski. Speaking of emotion, one of the aspects of coming to the AANP meeting that is not adequately acknowledged is the precious interactions we have between the formal presentations. Informal discussions which give encouragement, advice, or information are perhaps the most important part of this annual event. Our specialty is small, with many of us working in relative isolation. Chatting over a cup of coffee with a colleague brings a connectedness to like-minded individuals that renews enthusiasm for the jobs that each of us will go back to on Monday. Finally, as always, the most entertaining part of the meeting was the Diagnostic Slide Session (DSS). This year's slide session, hosted by Dr. Katerina Giannini, lived up to its long tradition of presenting great cases accompanied by insightful commentary from audience members. Among the DSS diagnoses this year were dural-based EBV-related smooth muscle tumor, Balo's concentric sclerosis, Machado-Joseph disease, and my personal favorite: copper deficiency myelopathy.
AANP 2015 Diagnostic Slide Session (Denver, CO)