By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, JuLY 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Survival has improved for adults with low-grade brain tumors, known as gliomas, a new study finds.
Low-grade gliomas grow slowly but are deadly. Because they're uncommon, they are not well-studied, said the researchers from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. The best ways to manage these tumors are also controversial. There is little consensus on whether or when to use radiation or what type of surgery or chemotherapy patients should undergo.
"An understanding of how our treatments affect the survival of low-grade glioma patients will better enable us to help these patients," senior study author Dr. Clark Chen, vice chairman of research and academic development in neurosurgery, said in a university news release.
For the study, published July 1 in Neuro-Oncology: Clinical Practice, researchers examined data compiled in a U.S. cancer registry for the past decade.
They found the median survival of patients diagnosed with low-grade gliomas increased to 57 months in 2010, from 44 months in 1999. This is the first reported increase in survival among these patients, and more effective chemotherapies may have played a role in this positive trend, they said.
The improvement occurred despite a decline in use of radiation at time of diagnosis, the researchers pointed out.
Although previous research suggests removing low-grade gliomas is associated with longer survival, the researchers found that only about 30 percent of patients in the United States had their tumor surgically removed. The number of these operations, they noted, has not changed over the past 10 years.
"The lack of improvement in surgical resection is likely limited by the availability of technologies, such as intra-operative MRI, to allow surgeons to perform maximal surgical resection," Dr. Bob Carter, chief of neurosurgery, said in the news release. As use of these technologies expands, new standards of care will be set for these patients, he added.