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A glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor found in adults, and it is an especially fast-growing cancer.

Also called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), this type of tumor arises in glial cells that form much of the tissue surrounding and protecting neurons in the brain and spinal cord. A GBM is the highest grade astrocytic cell tumor and it comprises nearly 54 percent of all gliomas. These grade IV cancers can spread into any region of the brain and can involve both cerebral hemispheres. Only 10 percent of the 12,000 to 14,000 people diagnosed annually with glioblastoma multiforme survive five years.


Symptoms may include persistent headaches, nausea, seizures, change in alertness, mood, even speech and coordination deficits.


Accurate diagnosis involves advanced brain imaging as well as a surgical biopsy to obtain sample tissue for testing. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment may include more extensive surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation and chemotherapy to kill any remaining cells.

Another therapy is the Novo-TTF (NovocureTM) device, which offers patients the ability to wear electrodes on their head, a treatment that has proven as effective as chemotherapy in some cases of glioblastoma multiforme. The Novo-TTF device, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, provides the wearer with tumor treatment without the side effects common to many types of chemotherapy.

Clinical trials

There also are many promising clinical trials for this aggressive brain tumor, including a vaccine combining protein antigens from the patient’s tumor with his or her white blood cells. The trial underway at UC Irvine Health involves injecting the combined cells back into the brain to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack any lingering cancer cells.

Learn more about our clinical trials ›

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