Testicular Germ Cell CancerRSS

Last Updated: November 19, 2018

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What is testicular germ cell cancer?

More than 90 percent of testicular cancer start in the germ cells, which are cells in the testicles and develop into sperm. This type of cancer is known as testicular germ cell cancer. Testicular germ cell cancer can be classified as either seminomas or nonseminomas, whose cells have different appearances under a microscope.1 Another difference is that nonseminomas typically grow and spread more quickly than seminomas. A testicular germ cell tumor that contains a mix of both these subtypes is classified as a nonseminoma. The Cancer Genome Atlas is studying both seminomas and nonseminomas.

Testicular germ cell cancer is rare, comprising one to two percent of all tumors in males.2 However, it is the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 35.2 The incidence of testicular germ cell cancer has been continuously rising in many countries, including Europe and the U.S.3 In 2013, about 8,000 American men are estimated to be diagnosed with this cancer.1 Of those, 370 are predicted to die of this disease.1 Men who are Caucasian, have an undescended testicle, abnormally developed testicles, or a family history of testicular cancer have a greater risk of developing testicular cancer. Fortunately, testicular germ cell cancer is highly treatable. Additional information on testicular germ cell cancer.

TCGA's study of testicular germ cell cancer was part of an effort to characterize rare tumor types. Read more about the Rare Tumor Projects.

What have TCGA researchers learned about testicular germ cell cancer?

  • In a study of 137 testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs), distinct molecular patterns characterized each of the major histological subtypes of the disease: seminoma, embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac, and teratoma.
    • All histology types exhibit extensive aneuploidy and low mutation frequency.
    • Global DNA methylation and miRNA expression differ greatly between histology types, implicating a likely major role of epigenomic processes in determining histologic fates. 
  • A subset of pure seminomas are defined by KIT mutations, distinct DNA methylation and immune infiltration profiles, and decreased KRAS copy number.
  • Significant somatic mutations are present only in TGCTs with seminoma components.
  • Certain molecular features may potentially be used as biomarkers for risk stratification. 

Where can I find more information about the TCGA Research Network's studies, or studies using TCGA data?

View a list of TCGA scientific publications.

Where can I find clinical trials to treat testicular germ cell cancer that are supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)?


View a list of NCI-supported testicular germ cell cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients.


Selected References

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. 2012.

2 Segal R. Surveillance programs for stage I nonseminomatous germ cell tumors of the testis. Urol Oncol. 2006 Jan-Feb; 24(1):68-74.

3 Vasdev N, Moon A, Thorpe AC. Classification, epidemiology and therapies for testicular germ cell tumours. Int J Dev Biol. 2013; 57(2-4):133-139.