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Craniopharyngioma Treatment

Craniopharyngioma is a brain tumor found in the area of the brain around the nerves to the eyes (optic pathway) and the pituitary gland (produces the body’s hormones). Craniopharyngiomas account for about 6% of childhood brain tumors. There are around 100–120 cases of pediatric craniopharyngioma in the United States each year. Diagnosis most often occurs between ages 5–14.

This is often a solid and cystic tumor. Its growth can result in serious illness, vision problems, and problems with hormone levels. The tumor does not usually spread to other areas of the brain or spinal cord.

The 10-year survival rate for craniopharyngioma is about 80–90%.

Learn more about craniopharyngioma on the Together by St. Jude online resource. 

Craniopharyngioma types

Sometimes craniopharyngiomas can be diagnosed by imaging alone based on characteristic features you can see on both CT scans and MRI scans. If surgery is performed, further molecular testing can be done to identify the type of craniopharyngioma.

There are 2 types of craniopharyngiomas:

  • Adamantinomatous
  • Papillary

Treatment of craniopharyngioma

Treatments for craniopharyngioma include surgery, radiation therapy, or both.

Surgery may:

  • Remove the full tumor
  • Remove part of the tumor
  • Relieve symptoms before radiation therapy

Radiation therapy can be used alone or with surgery.

St. Jude has developed effective treatments with the least amount of risk based on the tumor’s features. This approach is used to increase survival rates and lower the risk of side effects of treatment. If the patient’s prognosis is good, a less intense therapy can be offered. Patients with high-risk disease may receive more intensive therapy to improve their chances of survival.

Craniopharyngioma clinical trials 

St. Jude clinical trials have produced new, groundbreaking treatments for serious childhood diseases. Our doctors and scientists work together to find better ways to treat patients. In many cases, new treatments are being developed on the St. Jude campus.

We also take part in trials developed by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC). Many of our faculty members play key roles in developing these large trials that take place at centers across the United States.

Learn more about clinical research at St. Jude.

RT3CR: Proton Therapy for Pediatric Craniopharyngioma

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to learn if proton therapy will treat patients with craniopharyngioma brain tumors effectively and reduce side effects compared to traditional forms of radiation therapy.


21 years old or younger

Craniopharyngioma care at St. Jude

St. Jude provides the highest quality of care for patients with craniopharyngioma:

  • We bring together medical experts and specially trained staff to care for your child. We also work with brain surgeons (neurosurgeons) at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
  • We have a special team that helps understand the makeup of the tumor. This team includes doctors and scientists who study:  
  • We have a special team that helps understand the makeup of the tumor. This team includes doctors and scientists who study:
    • Cancer cells
    • How the cancer happened
    • Current medicines and treatments to kill cancer cells
    • What makes cancer cells grow and what new medicines can stop them
    • New medicines and other therapies to improve how treatments work   
  • Our brain tumor clinical trials have led to better therapies in children. These improvements include lower-dose therapies, targeted therapy, and proton therapy. These treatments kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells and may lessen the severity of side effects that affect brain function after treatment for some types of brain tumors.
  • The  St. Jude Proton Therapy Center is the first center in the world that treats only children with this therapy.
  • Along with the treatment studies constantly being developed at St. Jude, the staff also treats patients on studies developed by the Children’s Oncology Group, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, and the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium. Many St. Jude staff members play key roles in developing these studies. They are large tests carried out at multiple centers across the United States.
  • St. Jude offers a dedicated team of specialists to meet the needs of children with brain tumors, including:

More reasons to choose St. Jude for care include:

  • We are consistently ranked among the best childhood cancer centers in the nation by US News & World Report.
  • At St. Jude, we have created an environment where children can be children and families can be together. 
  • We lead more clinical trials for childhood cancer than any other hospital in the U.S. 
  • St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center just for children. A Comprehensive Cancer Center meets rigorous standards for research that develops new and better approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is about 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Patients may be able to get expert, compassionate care and treatment closer to their homes through our St. Jude Affiliate clinics.

Get more information about the Brain Tumor Treatment program at St. Jude.

A statue of children running and holding hands

Seeking treatment at St. Jude

Patients accepted to St. Jude must have a disease we treat and must be referred by a physician or other qualified medical professional. We accept most patients based on their ability to enroll in an open clinical trial.

How to seek treatment

Contact us

You can start the referral process by letting your doctor know you would like a second opinion from St. Jude. They can contact our 24-hour beeper service or contact our brain tumor coordinator. You may also contact the brain tumor coordinator directly with questions.

Learn more about the types of brain tumors we treat at St. Jude and our brain tumor eligibility requirements.

Physician / Patient Referral Office

Call: 1-888-226-4343 (toll-free) or 901-595-4055 (local)  | Email:
Fax: 901-595-4011 | 24-hour pager: 1-800-349-4334

Contact the Brain Tumor Team directly:

Submit brain tumor contact form

Contact the Surgery Team directly:


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