Glioma is a general term used to describe any tumor that arises from the supportive tissue of the brain. This tissue, called glia, helps to keep the neurons in place and functioning well.
There are three types of normal glial cells that can produce tumors. An astrocyte will produce astrocytomas (including glioblastomas), an oligodendrocyte will produce oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas come from ependymal cells. Tumors that display a mixture of these different cells are called mixed gliomas.
Tumors such as optic nerve glioma and brain stem glioma are named for their locations, not the tissue type from which they originate.
• Tumor removal by surgery is the mainstay of treatment. The patient should be otherwise relatively healthy, and brain function, speech, and mobility is able to be maintained. Imaging techniques such as CT scanning and functional MRI may be used to assist the surgeon in removing the tumor. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible and obtain an accurate diagnosis. Recurrences of the tumor are frequent.
• Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation to kill the cancer cells.
• Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the cancer cell growth. This therapy may be taken by mouth or injected.
• Electric-field therapy uses electrical fields to target cells in the tumor while not hurting normal cells. It’s done by putting electrodes directly on the scalp. The device is called Optune. It’s given with chemotherapy after surgery and radiation. The FDA has approved it for both newly diagnosed people and people whose glioblastoma has come back.
• Supportive therapy to improve symptoms and neurologic function include corticosteroids to reduce swelling in the brain caused by the tumor and anticonvulsants to control or prevent seizures.
• Clinical trials, performed to see if new cancer therapies are effective and safe, are another option.