Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM) is the most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor. The cells reproduce rapidly and are supported by a large network of blood vessels. These tumor cells contain various cell types, hence the name multiform. There is no cure available.
GBM occurs in about 2 to 3 per 100,000 people in the United States and Europe. This tumor represents about 12 to 15% of all brain tumors, typically affecting more men than women and increase in frequency with age. Only 3% of childhood brain tumors are glioblastomas.
Glioblastomas are typically found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, but can be found anywhere in the brain or spinal cord.
Glioblastoma cells grow rapidly and symptoms are usually a result of experiencing increased pressure in the brain. These symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Depending on the location of the tumor, patients can develop a variety of other symptoms such as weakness, memory difficulties, difficulties speaking, and vision changes.
The exact cause of glioblastoma is not known.
The first treatment step for glioblastoma is surgery to debulk the tumor and remove as much as possible. This can be particularly challenging because GBM cells have finger-like tentacles and they are very difficult to completely remove from the brain while preserving important brain cell functions that control movement or sensation. Surgery is usually followed by radiation and chemotherapy therapy to kill remaining tumor cells.
Glioblastoma can be difficult to treat because the tumors contain so many different types of cells. Some cells may respond well to certain therapies, while others may not be affected at all. This is why the treatment plan for glioblastoma may combine several approaches.
Unfortunately, glioblastoma cells are highly aggressive and recurrence of the tumor is high.
Long-term survivors of glioblastoma are rare. With standard treatment, patients with GBM have a median survival of less than one year. About 2% of patients survive 3 years.
Research into tumor biomarkers is investigating the way we diagnose and provide treatment for GBM. Several clinical trials testing the safety and effectiveness of various treatment options for GBM.