• Tectal Glioma Overview

    Tectal gliomas are low-grade tumors in the tectum, the roof of the brainstem, which controls vital body functions such as respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. Tectal gliomas tend to develop spontaneously. There are no identifiable causes for these tumors, and no genetic link has been established.

    Tectal Glioma Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Patients with tectal gliomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program. Continue reading to learn more about tectal gliomas or visit the Glioma Program homepage to learn about our expertise and approach to treating this condition.

    Symptoms & Diagnosis

    Symptoms are generally related to increased pressure within the brain, including headache (usually upon awakening in the morning), vomiting and fatigue. Your child may also develop abnormal eye movements and have difficulty walking.

    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 all necessary tests are complete, the best treatment options can be identified.

    Treatment & Care 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. Treatments generally focus on relieving symptoms caused by increased pressure within the brain, including surgically inserting a device called a shunt, which drains excessive fluid from the brain, and an alternative to a shunt called ETV (endoscopic third ventriculostomy). The oral steroid dexamethasone may also be given to relieve intracranial pressure.

    Chemotherapy and radiation therapy generally are not prescribed for tectal gliomas. As a follow-up, physicians use frequent MRI scans to look for evidence of progressive disease.

    Progressive or Recurrent Disease

    While spinal fluid diversion to relieve the fluid pressure is sufficient therapy for the majority of patients, in those with progressive symptoms, a number of standard and experimental treatment options are available. Dana-Farber/Boston Children's is a member of the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutic Investigators Consortium, a collaborative clinical research group that offers experimental therapies to patients with relapsed or refractory tumors. If a child has a progressive or recurrent tectal glioma, he/she may be eligible for a number of experimental therapies available through these groups.

    Long-term Outlook

    Tectal glioma is associated with a high cure rate. Many children will demonstrate an increase in tumor size; however, most will remain asymptomatic and not require further treatment other than serial MRI scans.