An astrocytoma is a brain tumor that originates from star-shaped
cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes are a kind of glial cell, cells that support
and nourish neurons in the brain.
Like other kinds of gliomas (tumors
that arise from glial cells), astrocytomas are divided into four grades,
depending on their cells' appearance under a microscope; the higher a tumor's
grade number, the more severe it is. Grades 1 and 2 are considered low-grade
astrocytomas, and grades 3 and 4 are considered high-grade astrocytomas.
Most astrocytomas are both
highly treatable and highly curable. The most common kind of astrocytoma,
called a pilocytic astrocytoma, has a cure rate over 90 percent.
Children and adolescents with astrocytomas are treated at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s through the Brain Tumor Center's Glioma Program,
one of the largest and most experienced pediatric glioma programs in the world.
Our glioma specialists—a team of neuro-oncologists,
surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists—focus solely on the care of
children diagnosed with gliomas. The Glioma Program also offers families the
chance to have
their child's tumor molecularly profiled (as
long as a biopsy can be taken), which may help identify opportunities for
Continue reading to learn more about pediatric gliomas: read
of childhood brain tumors, or visit our Glioma
to learn about our expertise and treatment options.
As an astrocytoma grows, it presses on surrounding healthy
parts of the brain, affecting their function. As such, the symptoms of a
pediatric astrocytoma depend on the tumor's size and where in the brain it is
Some of the most common symptoms of a pediatric astrocytoma
To diagnose a pediatric astrocytoma, your doctor will take
your child's medical history and carry out both physical and neurological
exams. Your doctor may also order a variety of tests, including:
Specific astrocytoma diagnoses could include:
After all tests are
completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
Our treatment approach for pediatric gliomas is personalized
for each patient depending on several factors, including the tumor's type,
stage and location. Some therapies will treat the tumor, while others are
intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the
In addition, our clinicians may offer access to targeted
on the molecular profile of your child's tumor.
Some of the options your doctor may discuss include:
We also offer innovative brain tumor clinical trials for
children with astrocytomas. Some of these were launched by our own physicians,
while others are available through our participation in collaborative groups
such as the Children's
Oncology Group (COG) and the Pediatric
Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC).
Should you have questions or need advice on whether a
particular trial would be appropriate for your child, email our clinical trials
team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can help you navigate your options.
Your child’s prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment
options depend on a number of different factors, including:
In general, astrocytomas tend
to be readily treatable. Prompt medical attention and appropriate therapy are
important for the best prognosis.
Many brain tumor survivors face physical, psychological,
social and intellectual challenges related to their treatment and will require
ongoing assessment and specialized care.
To address the needs of this growing community of brain
tumor survivors, Dana-Farber/Boston Children's established the Stop &
Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic.
This multi-disciplinary program addresses long-term health and social issues
for families and survivors of childhood brain tumors.
Today, the Outcomes Clinic follows more than 1,000 pediatric
brain tumor survivors of all ages, providing such services as:
As a result of treatment,
children may experience changes in intellectual and motor function. Several
programs address these needs, among them the School Liaison and Back-to-School programs, which provide
individualized services to ease children's return to school and maximize their
ability to learn. In addition to providing thorough and compassionate care,
Outcomes Clinic specialists conduct innovative survivorship research and
provide continuing education for staff, patients and families.
Research is a top priority at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, and our physicians work continuously to translate laboratory findings into clinical therapies and find ways to improve survival while reducing the toxicity and long-term impact of treatment.
For instance, a 2014 study led by Peter Manley, MD, documented the excellent long-term survival among patients with low-grade gliomas and the negative impact of radiation therapy—long a mainstay of pediatric brain tumor treatment—on that survival.
The Glioma Program's research enterprise mirrors its clinical efforts in its multidisciplinary nature. Basic, translational and clinical scientists in the program work together and with colleagues at institutions like the Broad Institute to uncover new knowledge about the biology of gliomas and translate that understanding into new therapies or ways of overcoming resistance to existing ones.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's houses the Pediatric Low-grade Astrocytoma (PLGA) Program, the world's only multidisciplinary clinical and research program dedicated to pediatric low-grade gliomas. Established in 2007 with support from the PLGA Foundation, the program takes a multifaceted approach to finding more effective, less toxic treatments and a cure for children battling brain tumors, and has become the standard bearer for the research and care of pediatric brain tumors. Our pediatric neuro-oncologists, including Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, clinical director of the Brain Tumor Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, and Pratiti (Mimi) Bandopadhayay, MBBS, PhD, are actively contributing to these efforts.
It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of the Glioma Program’s current 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) and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC).
Dr. Kieran is currently leading the first clinical trial to biopsy and molecularly profile tissue from patients diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a highly aggressive glioma of the brain stem. This study is revealing DIPG's molecular vulnerabilities and pointing researchers toward new treatment options.
The Brain Tumor Center's Peter Manley, MD, discusses the issues that survivors of childhood brain cancers should know.