Anaplastic astrocytomas are brain tumors that arise from brain cells called
astrocytes, which are a type of glial cell. An anaplastic astrocytoma is both a type
of astroctyoma and a type of high-grade glioma.
Children with anaplastic astrocytoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's through our Glioma
Program, one of the world's largest treatment programs focused on pediatric gliomas. Our glioma specialists have extensive expertise in treating all
types of gliomas, including anaplastic astrocytoma. Our patients receive multidisciplinary care from
neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.
Most anaplastic astrocytomas and
high-grade gliomas occur sporadically or without identifiable cause. They do,
however, occur with increased frequency in families with the following
Anaplastic astrocytomas have also been associated with exposure to vinyl chloride and to high doses of radiation therapy to the brain.
Anaplastic astrocytomas of the cerebral hemispheres and the diencephalon (also called supratentorial anaplastic astrocytomas) produce a variety of symptoms as a result of increased pressure within the head, as well as more localizing symptoms related to their specific location, rate of growth and associated inflammation.
The duration of symptoms varies from slow, subtle onsets to more abrupt presentations. Each child may experience different symptoms. The following are the most common anaplastic astrocytoma symptoms:
The symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis.
Anaplastic astrocytomas are diagnosed using a combination of tests including:
The primary treatment for newly diagnosed anaplastic astrocytoma is maximal surgical removal, when possible, followed by radiation therapy. To date, no chemotherapy regimen has been demonstrated to increase survival in pediatric high-grade gliomas.
As with all pediatric cancers, care should be delivered at a specialized center where multidisciplinary teams can provide not only expert diagnostics and experienced medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, but also psychosocial support, neuro-psychological testing and specialized school plans all delivered in a child- and family-sensitive and friendly environment.
Anaplastic astrocytoma treatment may include (alone or in combination):
Clinical and basic scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are
conducting numerous research studies to help clinicians better understand and
treat malignant gliomas. Through the consortia of researchers to which we
belong, a number of novel therapies are available for children with both newly
diagnosed and current brain tumors. Participation
in any clinical trial is completely voluntary. We will take care to fully
explain all elements of the treatment plan prior to the start of the trial, and
you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.
For many children with brain tumors or other rare or hard-to-treat
conditions, clinical trials provide new options.
that your child will be eligible to participate in one of our brain tumor clinical trials.
In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer trials
available through collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group
(COG), the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC). If your child has
progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of
experimental therapies available through these groups, or from one of our
independent clinical investigators.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for anaplastic astrocytoma remains 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
For children with relapsed anaplastic astrocytomas, we offer access to the
latest clinical trials and experimental therapies. Current trials include novel
medications, as well as new methods for the delivery of more traditional
Our Pediatric Advanced
Care Team (PACT) is available to provide supportive treatments intended to
optimize your child’s quality of life and promote comfort and healing for
children with life-threatening illnesses. In addition, PACT can provide
psychosocial support and help arrange end-of-life care, when necessary.
treated for anaplastic astrocytoma should visit a cancer survivorship clinic yearly to manage disease
complications, screen for recurrence
and manage late treatment side effects. A typical follow-up visit is likely to
include a physical exam, laboratory testing and imaging scans.
Through our Stop
& Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic, children are able to meet with their neurosurgeon, radiation
oncologist, pediatric neuro-oncologist and neurologists at the same follow-up
visit. Our multidisciplinary approach and depth of expertise will give your
child on-site access to endocrinologists, neuro-psychologists and
alternative/complementary therapy specialists. School liaison and psychosocial
personnel from the pediatric brain tumor team are also available. In addition, children needing rehabilitation may
meet with speech, physical, and occupational therapists during and after their
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