What is Glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. Glioblastoma forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Glioblastoma can occur at any age, but tends to occur more often in older adults. It can cause worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures. Cancer cells in GBM tumors rapidly multiply. The cancer can spread into other areas of the brain as well. Rarely, the cancer spreads outside the brain to other parts of the body.
Glioma tumors like GBM start in glial cells. Glial cells are vital to nerve cell function. GBMs specifically form in glial cells called astrocytes. GBMs are the fastest-growing astrocytoma (tumor that forms in astrocytes).
What is life expectancy for glioblastoma?
It is estimated that more than 10,000 individuals in the United States will succumb to glioblastoma every year. The five-year survival rate for glioblastoma patients is only 6.8 percent, and the average length of survival for glioblastoma patients is estimated to be only 8 months.
Is glioblastoma ever curable?
Unfortunately, there isn't a cure for GBM. Treatments focus on removing or shrinking the tumor to reduce symptoms. The first step is surgery to remove the tumor (craniotomy), followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
Who is at risk for Glioblastoma?
GBM commonly affects people age 45 to 70. The average age at diagnosis is 64.
Life expectancy of a patient with glioblastoma?
Although the average life expectancy after diagnosis is 14 to 16 months, approximately 1% of patients survive at least 10 years. .
Symptoms & Causes
GBM symptoms tend to come on quickly. The growing tumor puts pressure on the brain, causing:
Blurred or double vision.
Loss of appetite.
Muscle weakness or balance problems
Nausea and vomiting.
Changes in sensation, numbness or tingling.
How is glioblastoma diagnosed?
When a brain tumor is suspected the following tests are performed:
MRI or CT scan to look for brain tumors.
Biopsy to obtain a sample from a tumor and examine the tissue for cancer cells.
What are the types and grades of glioblastoma?
GBMs are grade 4 by definition. GBM can be either primary or secondary. Primary GBM develops directly from glial cells.
Can a glioblastoma go into remission?
In remission, symptoms may let up or disappear for a time. Glioblastomas often regrow. If that happens, doctors may be able to treat it with surgery and a different form of radiation and chemotherapy. Palliative care is also important for anyone with a serious illness.
What kills glioblastoma cells?
Patients undergoing chemotherapy are administered special drugs designed to kill tumor cells. Chemotherapy with the drug temozolomide is the current standard of treatment for GBM.
What are the complications of glioblastoma?
GBM and its treatments can affect brain function. You may experience mood changes and memory problems. Most people with GBM eventually have to stop working and driving. You may need full-time care. These changes may make you feel anxious or depressed.
How is glioblastoma managed or treated?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for GBM. Treatments focus on removing or shrinking the tumor to reduce symptoms.
The first step is surgery to remove the tumor (craniotomy), followed by radiation and chemotherapy. If surgery isn’t an option due to your health or the tumor location, radiation and chemotherapy can control the tumor.
GBM treatments include:
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses S-rays to damage cancer cells so they can’t grow. You may need as many as 30 daily radiation treatments over six weeks.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT allows the delivery of radiation to the tumor while minimizing the radiation dose to the surrounding healthy brain tissue.
Stereotactic radiosurgery: Gamma knife radiosurgery is a type of advanced radiation therapy. (Despite the name, it is not a surgical procedure.) Highly focused X-ray beams precisely target the tumor, limiting damage to healthy tissue. Providers occasionally use this technique when GBM grows after receiving initial IMRT.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy medication circulates in your blood to kill cancer cells. You may receive chemotherapy at the same time as radiation therapy as well as after radiation therapy is completed.
Targeted therapy: This treatment targets certain cell changes that fuel cancer growth.
Tumor treatment fields (TTF): A wearable device sends low-intensity electric fields (TTFs) to the tumor through electrodes on the scalp. TTFs disrupt cancer cells, preventing them from multiplying and growing. Providers may consider this treatment after chemoradiation is complete.
GBM is an aggressive cancer that is difficult to treat. There isn’t a cure. Treatments ease symptoms and help you stay comfortable and prolong your life. There are many clinical trials underway to find new GBM treatments.
Therapies that target specific cancer cell genes show promise. Researchers are also looking at ways to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumor. Your healthcare provider can determine whether a clinical trial is right for you.
Finding out you have GBM can be difficult. The disease grows quickly and treatment is challenging. Researchers continue to look for new ways to treat GBM. For now, treatments can minimize symptoms and improve your quality of life. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options, including clinical trials. It is important to note that experts don’t know why some people develop brain tumors, including GBM.