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Childhood Astrocytomas Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Treatment of Childhood High-Grade Astrocytomas

To determine and implement optimal management, treatment of childhood high-grade astrocytomas is often guided by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists who have experience treating childhood brain tumors.

Treatment of Newly Diagnosed Childhood High-Grade Astrocytomas

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Outcomes in high-grade gliomas occurring in childhood are more favorable than that in adults. It is not clear whether this difference is caused by biologic variations in tumor characteristics, therapies used, tumor resectability, or other factors.[1]

The therapy for both children and adults with supratentorial high-grade astrocytoma includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Standard treatment options for newly diagnosed childhood high-grade astrocytomas include the following:

  1. Surgery.
  2. Adjuvant therapy.

Surgery

The ability to obtain a complete resection is associated with a better prognosis.[2,3] Among patients treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and nitrosourea (lomustine)-based chemotherapy, 5-year progression-free survival was 19% ± 3%; survival was 40% in those who had total resections.[4] Similarly, in a trial of multiagent chemoradiation therapy and adjuvant chemotherapy in addition to valproic acid, 5-year event-free survival (EFS) was 13%, but for children with a complete resection of their tumor, the EFS was 48%.[5][Level of evidence: 2A]

Adjuvant therapy

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is routinely administered to a field that widely encompasses the entire tumor. The radiation therapy dose to the tumor bed is usually at least 54 Gy. Despite such therapy, overall survival rates remain poor. Similarly poor survival is seen in children with spinal cord primaries and children with thalamic high-grade gliomas treated with radiation therapy.[6,7]; [8,9][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]

Chemotherapy

In one trial, children with glioblastoma who were treated on a prospective randomized trial with adjuvant lomustine, vincristine, and prednisone fared better than children treated with radiation therapy alone.[10]

The use of temozolomide to treat glioblastoma was initially investigated in adults. In adults, the addition of temozolomide during and after radiation therapy resulted in improved 2-year EFS as compared with treatment with radiation therapy alone. Adult patients with glioblastoma with a methylated O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter benefitted from temozolomide, whereas those who did not have a methylated MGMT promoter did not benefit from temozolomide.[11,12] The role of temozolomide given concurrently with radiation therapy for children with supratentorial high-grade glioma appears comparable to the outcome seen in children treated with nitrosourea-based therapy [13] and again demonstrated a survival advantage for those children with a methylated MGMT promoter.

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