Atypical Teratoid/ Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT)

The cerebellum and the brain stem
AT/RT most often takes hold in the cerebellum or in the brain stem (where the brain connects to the spinal cord), then spreads rapidly throughout the central nervous system.

An atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, usually referred to as AT/RT, is an aggressive, fast-growing brain tumor that strikes primarily very young children (usually under age 3). It can occur anywhere in the brain or spinal column, but it’s most often found in the cerebellum (in the lower back of the head) or in the brain stem (where the brain connects to the spinal cord). It usually spreads rapidly throughout the central nervous system.  AT/RT is extremely rare — only about two percent of all pediatric brain tumors are AT/RTs — and it affects boys and girls equally.

AT/RT is a type of malignant rhabdoid tumor (MRT), which forms in soft tissue — most commonly the brain or spine or in the kidney (where it is called a renal MRT — which is why in the brain it is sometimes called an "extra-renal" rhabdoid tumor). MRTs are marked by their rapid rate of cell division, making AT/RT an especially fast-growing brain cancer, as well as their resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.   

AT/RT is one of the rare and inoperable pediatric brain tumors being studied in the research labs at Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Neurourgery . (Find out more about the Children’s Brain Tumor Project.)

What Causes AT/RT?
AT/RT is caused by a genetic mutation, which can occur spontaneously or be inherited. There is no way to prevent AT/RT.

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Cindy Campbell, SuperTy's mom, speaks at Miles for Hope 5K

An AT/RT Mom Speaks Out
Cindy Campbell tells her story at Miles for Hope - her little boy succumbed to AT/RT not long after this video
By Cindy Campbell Ty Louis Campbell was a beautiful baby, then a rambunctious toddler with curly blonde hair and an infectious smile. At two years and ten months old, Ty was the picture of health — no developmental delays, no medical issues — but he...
This is a tale of two baby girls, both born in 2003. One of them started high school today, the other did not. One child was born near Moscow to a woman who had had no prenatal care and who left the hospital without her baby. The infant was...

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  • Vice Chair for Academic Affairs
  • Professor of Neurological Surgery, Pediatric Neurosurgery
  • Associate Residency Director
Phone: 212-746-2363
  • Vice Chair, Neurological Surgery
  • Director, Pediatric Neurological Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2363
  • Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics
Phone: 212-746-2363

Reviewed by: Jeffrey Greenfield, M.D., Ph.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: June 2024
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI

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