Mark W. Kieran, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
What are Gliomas
What are Gliomas?
A glioma is a cancer of the brain, or brain tumor, which forms in the glial cells of the central nervous system. Glial cells are those that surround and support nerve cells. While some brain cancers originate elsewhere in the body, gliomas originate in the central nervous system, and are often called “primary” brain tumors.
Beyond the location of their origin, gliomas have a number of characteristics. One important characteristic of malignant gliomas is that they do not have clearly discernable boundaries, or are “diffuse.” 1 Even if removed, portions of a glioma often remain and lead to relapse. While gliomas do not spread outside of the central nervous system, it is common to find multiple gliomas throughout the brain stem during relapse phases of the disease.
Over 97% of children with the worst of the gliomas, diffuse pontine gliomas, die within three years. Gliomas are disproportionately common among children, and they are the second highest cause of cancer death among young people. Different forms of gliomas, however, have different prognoses and treatments. Over 97% of children with the worst of the gliomas, diffuse pontine gliomas, die within three years.2
1 Fisher, P.G. & Buffler, P.A. (2005) “Malignant Gliomas in 2005: Where to GO From Here?” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2005; Vol. 293, No.5.
2 Wagner, S., et al (2006) “Treatment options in childhood pontine gliomas,” Journal of Neuro-Oncology (2006) 79: 281–287.