Other Gliomas

Gliomas are tumors that are thought to begin in neural stem cells or neural progenitor cells. These cell normally create new neurons or glial cells in the brain and spinal cord and are thought to contribute to learning and memory as well as repair after brain injury.

There are a number of different types of gliomas. Glioblastoma is a grade IV glioma. It is the most severe type of glioma and also the most common.

However, there are other gliomas of lower grades that can be easier to treat than glioblastomas. To get the best treatment, it’s imperative that your physicians identify the tumor correctly.

The Washington University oncologists and neurosurgeons at Siteman Cancer Center are experts at diagnosing and treating gliomas. They will design a care plan tailored to your tumor’s type, location, and even its genetic signature.

What are the types of gliomas?

There are several subtypes of gliomas.

Astrocytomas

Most gliomas are astrocytomas. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of astrocytoma.

Other types of astrocytoma, including pilocytic astrocytomas and diffuse astrocytomas, do not grow as quickly. They may be grade I, II, or III. Patients with these tumors may have a more positive prognosis.

In some cases, lower grade astrocytomas may advance to higher grades.

Oligodendrogliomas

Oligodendrogliomas are graded as either II or III. They appear more often in younger adult patients.

Of the different types of gliomas in adults, oligodendrogliomas are the most likely to have a good prognosis and outcome.

What are the symptoms of a glioma?

Gliomas arise in both the brain and the spinal cord, leading to a wide range of symptoms. These include:

  • Headaches, particularly in the early morning
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with balance
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Problems with vision
  • Problems with producing or understanding language

How are gliomas treated?

Many patients with gliomas will first undergo surgery to remove as much of their tumor as possible. Then, they may receive a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy to kill remaining tumor cells.  Some patients will also be treated with new targeted drugs or immunotherapies.

Glioma patients often receive treatment through clinical trials. Siteman Cancer Center houses more clinical trials than any other facility in the region, and your care team will inform you if a trial could be a good match for you.

Surgery for glioma

Gliomas are complex tumors. They are often “diffuse,” which means that they branch out in many directions. In addition, they can arise in areas of the brain that are vital to a patient’s ability to move and speak.

Fortunately, glioma surgery is now safer and more effective than ever before, thanks to new technologies that allow for enhanced tumor visualization and preservation of normal brain.

Most patients with gliomas will undergo a craniotomy. This is a procedure in which surgeons access the brain through an opening in the skull.

Washington University neurosurgeons use a number of advanced techniques that help them to remove more of the tumor while minimizing impact to the healthy tissues of the brain.

Learn more about brain tumor surgery.

Radiation therapy for glioma

Many glioma patients receive radiation therapy following surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation can destroy cancer cells left behind in the brain and relieve patient symptoms.

Patients with gliomas typically receive radiation therapy five days a week for a period of five to six weeks.

Siteman offers every type of radiation therapy available to treat glioma patients. These include.

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Proton beam radiation therapy

Drug therapy for glioma

In addition to radiation therapy and surgery, glioma patients also benefit from treatment with medications. These medicines can help slow the progression of the disease.

Patients with gliomas may be treated with chemotherapies or targeted therapies.  Targeted therapies are drugs that attack certain features of cancer cells, disabling them and stopping them from growing.

Some glioma patients may also receive immunotherapies as part of a clinical trial. These medications stimulate the immune system to attack malignant cells, and they have shown much promise in treating other forms of cancer.

Learn more about medical therapy for brain tumors.

Clinical trials for gliomas

Some gliomas have a positive prognosis, but many do not. At Siteman Cancer Center, our Washington University Physicians and scientists are working to develop new treatments and therapies for gliomas so that one day, all patients can expect a good outcome.

We have clinical trials focused on multiple aspects of glioma treatment, including radiation therapy and medical therapy. Your care team will inform you if a trial could be a good fit for your condition.

Some of our trials are: