Glioblastoma multiforme, (GBM) also known as grade 4 astrocytoma is the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor, accounting for 52 percent of all primary brain tumors cases. more...
Treatment can involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. The 5 year survival rate of the disease has remained unchanged over the past 30 years, and stands at less than three percent. Even with complete resection of the tumor, combined with the best available treatment, the survival rate for GBM remains very low. Chromosomal aberrations like PTEN mutation, MDM2 mutation, and p53 mutation are commonly seen in these tumors. Growth factor aberrant signaling associated with EGFR, and PDGF are also seen. Tumors of this type may also infiltrate across the corpus callosum, producing a butterfly glioma.
Glioblastoma multiformes are characterized by the presence of small areas of necrotizing tissue that is surrounded by highly anaplastic cells. This characteristic differentiates the tumor from Grade 3 astrocytomas, which do not have necrotic tissue regions. Although glioblastoma multiforme can be formed from lower grade astrocytomas, post-mortem autopsies have revealed that most glioblastoma multiforme are not caused by previous lesions in the brain. Metastasis of GBM beyond the Central Nervous System is extremely rare.
A variant of glioblastoma multiforme is known as gliomatosis cerebri. Instead of a solid tumor, the cancerous cells are more scattered and diffuse. This variant preserves the architecture of the brain, but causes the affected portion of the brain to swell. It is extremely difficult to diagnose.
Although common symptoms of the disease can include seizure, headache, and hemiparesis, the single most prevalent symptom is a progressive memory, personality, or neurological deficit. The kind of symptoms produced highly depends on the location of the tumor, more so than on its pathological properties. The tumor can start producing symptoms quickly, but occasionally is asymptomatic until it reaches an enormous size. Unlike oligodendrogliomas, glioblastoma multiformes can form in either the gray matter or white matter of the brain. The symptoms can be relieved, on a primary approach, by the administration of chorticotherapy. These drugs act by rearranging the blood-brain barrier and thus reducing brain oedema. Apart from this, not many different drugs have any kind of importance on this situation. Anti-convulsants, analgesics and stomach protection drugs are usually prescribed.
A Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan is necessary to characterize the anatomy of this tumor (size, location, heter/homogeneity). However, final diagnosis of this tumor, like most tumors, relies on histopathologic examination (biopsy examination) after biopsy or surgery.
Treatment of primary brain tumors and brain metastases consists of both supportive and definitive therapies.
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