Glioblastoma is a type of very aggressive brain tumor. It is also known as glioblastoma multiforme.
Glioblastoma is one of a group of tumors called astrocytomas. These tumors start in astrocytes — star-shaped cells that nourish and support nerve cells (neurons) in your brain. However, a glioblastoma can contain many different types of brain cells — including dead brain cells. About 12 to 15 percent of people with brain tumors have glioblastomas.
This type of tumor grows very fast inside the brain. Its cells copy themselves quickly, and it has a lot of blood vessels to feed it. However, it rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
What does grade 4 astrocytoma mean?
Glioblastomas are sometimes called grade 4 astrocytoma tumors. Tumors are graded on a scale from 1 to 4 based on how different they look from normal cells. The grade indicates how fast the tumor is likely to grow and spread.
A grade 4 tumor is the most aggressive and fastest-growing type. It can spread throughout your brain very quickly.
Types of glioblastoma
There are two types of glioblastoma:
Glioblastomas often grow in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. They can also be found in the brain stem, cerebellum, other parts of the brain, and the spinal cord.
The median survival time with glioblastoma is 15 to 16 months in people who get surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Median means half of all patients with this tumor survive to this length of time.
Everyone with glioblastoma is different. Some people don”t survive as long. Other people may survive up to five years or more, although it”s rare.
Children with higher-grade tumors tend to survive longer than adults. About 25 percent of kids who have this tumor live for five years or more.
Extending life expectancy
New treatments are extending life expectancy even more. People whose tumors have a favorable genetic marker called MGMT methylation have better survival rates.
MGMT is a gene that repairs damaged cells. When chemotherapy kills glioblastoma cells, MGMT fixes them. MGMT methylation prevents this repair and ensures that more tumor cells are killed.
Glioblastoma can be hard to treat. It grows quickly, and it has finger-like projections into the normal brain that are hard to remove with surgery. These tumors also contain many different types of cells. Some treatments may work well on some cells, but not on others.
Treatment for glioblastoma usually involves:
Other drugs that may be used to treat this cancer include:
New treatments for glioblastoma are being tested in clinical trials. These treatments include:
If these and other treatments are approved, they could one day improve the outlook for people with glioblastoma.
Causes and risk factors
Doctors don”t know what causes glioblastoma. Like other cancers, it starts when cells begin to grow uncontrollably and form tumors. This cell growth may have something to do with gene changes.
You”re more likely to get this type of tumor if you”re:
Glioblastoma causes symptoms when it presses on parts of your brain. If the tumor isn”t very large, you might not have any symptoms. Which symptoms you have depends on where in your brain the tumor is located.
Symptoms can include: