Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) are high-grade gliomas that arise from the brain’s supportive tissue (glial cells). These are aggressive tumors that rapidly infiltrate adjacent healthy brain tissue and, as a result, are difficult to treat.
The majority of GBMs (about 65%) occur in the cerebral hemispheres, which control higher functions like speech, movement, thought and sensation. They can also occur in the part of the brain that identifies sensations such as temperature, pain and touch and the region of the brain that controls balance and motor function. GBMs occur with increased frequency in children with certain genetic syndromes, including neurofibromatosis 1, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and tuberous sclerosis. Most GBMs, however, have no known cause.
Patients with GBMs are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program. Continue reading to learn more about GBMs or visit the Glioma Program homepage to learn about our expertise and approach to treating this condition.
GBM symptoms may develop slowly over time or they may begin very suddenly. The most common symptoms include headache (generally upon awakening in the morning), seizures (depending on the location of the tumor), and compression of surrounding brain structures, which can cause weakness or other motor dysfunction, hormonal abnormalities, and changes in behavior or thought processes.
Your child’s physician may order a number of different tests to best diagnose the tumor. In addition to a physical exam, medical history and neurological exam (which tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness), your child’s doctor may requests tests, including:
After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.
Your child’s physician will determine a specific course of treatment based on several factors. Some therapies will treat the tumor while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment.
The primary treatment for GBM is maximal surgical removal of the tumor, followed by radiation therapy. To date, no chemotherapy regimen has been demonstrated to increase survival rates in children with high-grade gliomas like GBM.
There can also be side effects related to the tumor itself or its treatment. Knowing what these side effects are can help you, your child, and your care team prepare for and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for GBM remains very poor. In general, more complete surgical removal of the tumor, when possible, results in greater chance of survival. Your child’s doctor will discuss treatment options with you, including experimental clinical trials and supportive care.
Our Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is available to provide supportive treatments intended to optimize your child’s quality of life and promote comforting and healing for children with life-threatening illnesses. In addition, PACT can provide psychosocial support and help arrange end-of-life care, when necessary.
The Brain Tumor Center's Peter Manley, MD discusses the side effects of cancer treatment, emphasizing the importance of treating the patient, not just the condition.