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Brain Cancer Health Center

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Adult Brain Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Management of Specific Tumor Types and Locations

Brain Stem Gliomas

Standard treatment options:

Patients with brain stem gliomas have relatively poor prognoses that correlate with histology (when biopsies are performed), location, and extent of tumor. The overall median survival time of patients in studies has been 44 to 74 weeks.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with adult brain stem glioma. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

Pineal Astrocytic Tumors

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgery plus radiation therapy for patients with pilocytic or diffuse astrocytoma.
  2. Surgery plus radiation therapy and chemotherapy for patients with higher grade tumors.

Depending on the degree of anaplasia, patients with pineal astrocytomas vary in prognoses. Higher grades have worse prognoses.

Pilocytic Astrocytomas

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgery alone if the tumor is totally resectable.
  2. Surgery followed by radiation therapy to known or suspected residual tumor.

This astrocytic tumor is classified as a World Health Organization (WHO) grade I tumor and is often curable.

Diffuse Astrocytomas (WHO grade II)

Standard treatment options:

  • Surgery plus radiation therapy; however, some controversy exists. Some physicians treat these patients with surgery alone if the patient is younger than 35 years and if the tumor does not contrast-enhance on a computed tomographic scan.[1]

This WHO grade II astrocytic tumor is less often curable than is a pilocytic astrocytoma.

Anaplastic Astrocytomas (WHO grade III)

Standard treatment options:

  1. Surgery plus radiation therapy.
  2. Surgery plus radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Patients with anaplastic astrocytomas (WHO grade III) have a low cure rate with standard local treatment. Because anaplastic astrocytomas represent less than 10% of all central nervous system gliomas, phase III randomized trials restricted to patients with them are not practical. However, because these tumors are often aggressive, they are frequently managed the same way as glioblastomas, with surgery and radiation, and often with chemotherapy, even though it is not known whether the improved survival with chemotherapy in glioblastoma can be extrapolated to anaplastic astrocytomas.

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