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The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

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High Grade Gliomas

Primary Brain Tumors - Anaplastic Astrocytoma

An astrocytoma is a glioma that develops from star-shaped glial cells (astrocytes) that support nerve cells. An anaplastic astrocytoma is classified as a grade III tumor.

Anaplastic Astrocytoma Characteristics

  • Grows faster and more aggressively than grade II astrocytomas
  • Tumor cells are not uniform in appearance
  • Invades neighboring tissue
  • Common among men and women in their 30s-50s
  • More common in men than women

Anaplastic Astrocytoma Treatment

Treatment depends on the location of the tumor and how far it has progressed. Surgery and radiation therapy, with chemotherapy during or following radiation, are the standard treatments. If surgery is not an option, then the doctor may recommend radiation and/or chemotherapy. Many clinical trials using radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination are available for initial and recurrent anaplastic astrocytomas.


Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common of malignant primary brain tumors in adults and is one of a group of tumors referred to as gliomas.

Classified as a Grade IV (most serious) astrocytoma, GBM develops from the lineage of star-shaped glial cells, called astrocytes, support nerve cells.

GBM develops primarily in the cerebral hemispheres but can develop in other parts of the brain, brainstem, or spinal cord.

Glioblastoma Multiforme Characteristics

  • Can be composed of several different cell types
  • Can develop directly or evolve from lower grade astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma
  • Most common in older individuals and more common in men than women
  • Less common in children
  • The cause is unknown, but increasingly research is pointing toward genetic mutations

Glioblastoma Multiforme Treatment

Standard treatment is surgery, followed by radiation therapy or combined radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If inoperable, then radiation or radiation/chemotherapy can be administered.

GBM's capacity to wildly invade and infiltrate normal surrounding brain tissue makes complete resection impossible. However, improvements in neuroimaging have helped to make better distinctions between tumor types and between tumor and normal cells.

Treatment requires effective teamwork from neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, physician assistants, social workers, psychologists and nurses. A supportive family environment is also helpful.

Read more about Types of Brain Tumors