A glioma is a brain tumor that arises from glial cells, which are the most common cells in the brain. Unlike neurons, glial cells divide and multiply. Sometimes the process occurs too rapidly and a glioma forms.
Three types of glial cells can become gliomas:
More than 75 percent of all gliomas are astrocytomas, which include pilocytic astrocytomas — rare, usually benign tumors found almost exclusively in children — and diffuse astrocytomas that can range from low-grade to severe.
Treatment options depend on the size, location and grade of the tumor. They include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. We are conducting clinical trials to treat certain types of astrocytomas that may be appropriate for some patients.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the highest grade astrocytic cell tumor. It corresponds to a malignant grade IV astrocytoma and comprises nearly 54 percent of all gliomas.
In addition to conventional treatments with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, there are many clinical trials available for this aggressive brain tumor that offer a structured opportunity to try promising therapies.
Another approved therapy is the Novo-TTF (Novocure™) device, which offers patients the ability to wear electrodes on their head in place of chemotherapy. It is a treatment that has proven as effective as chemotherapy in some cases.
Learn more about glioblastomas ›
Much less common than astrocytomas, these tumors arise from glial cells called oligodendrocytes. They cause seizures in 50 percent to 80 percent of patients, as well as headache, nausea, vomiting, balance problems and dizziness.
Treatment may include surgical removal, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Patients also may be eligible for clinical trials involving oligodendrogliomas.
These tumors can occur anywhere within the brain or spinal cord, but are found mostly at the base of the brain. They also can spread from the spinal cord to other areas of the nervous system.
Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and balance problems.
Diagnosis is made with an MRI but usually requires a confirming biopsy. Treatment may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
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