Glioblastomas (GBMs) are tumors that come from the cells that are shaped like stars in the brain. These cells, called astrocytes, are responsible for creating the supportive tissues of the mind. GBMs tend to be highly malignant, but their cancer cells do not often spread even though they are close location the blood vessel network. These tumors can contain a wide variety of different cells that may even include calcium deposits.
Facts About GBMs
1. Children tend to do better than adults with long-term recoveries from GBMs. The 5 year survival rate for children with Grade III or Grade IV tumors is 25%. In adults, the 5 year survival rate is just 10%.
2. The median survival rate for GBMs when all cases are considered: 14.6 months.
3. The median survival rate drops to 12.1 months when only surgery and radiotherapy are used to treat the tumor.
4. 3 in 10 people who are diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme will survive to the 2 year mark.
5. GBMs account for 17% of the total number of brain tumors that are discovered. They are up to 75% of all astrocytomas.
6. GBMs affect men more often than they affect women and age is a contributing risk factor to their development.
7. 3%. That’s the percentage of childhood brain tumors that are attributed to GBMs.
8. The MGMT gene is often considered to be a predictor of response. Those who have this gene shut off through methylation tend to have longer survival rates.
9. In 2012, there will be an estimated 22,910 new cases and 13,700 deaths of brain tumors. About 11,000 of these new cases will be GBMs.
10. More than 124,000 people in the United States right now have a primary diagnosis of cancer in the brain or central nervous system.
11. The incidence of primary malignant brain cancer has been increasing by about 1.2% each year over the last 30 years.
12. 10-30% of adults with cancer will develop brain metastases.
13. The 5 year survival rate for GBMs is 4.46%.
14. The 10 year survival rate for a GBM is just 2.7%. This makes glioblastoma multiforme the deadliest of all primary brain and central nervous system cancers.
15. When a GBM survivor reaches the 3 year mark, they are classified as a “long term” survivor.
16. In one recent study of removed tumors, 9 of 31 carried TP53 mutations.
GBMs are usually found in the central hemispheres of the brain. They can be found anywhere within the brain or along the spinal cord. There are two types of GBMs: primary and secondary. The primary tumors make their presence known quickly and the cancer tends to be very aggressive. Secondary tumors also have an aggressiveness to them, but their growth is usually lower and less time intensive.
Symptoms of a glioblastoma multiforme tend to include headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness due to the increased pressure on the brain that they cause. As time progresses, symptoms may even be similar to a stroke with weakness on one side of the body, visual changes, and difficult with memory recall.
Why Are GBM Outcomes So Negative?
Because glioblastoma multiforme rarely spreads, the problem that doctors face with this tumor is how it grows and places pressure on the critical structures of the brain. Unlike other tumors, the GBM grows by attaching itself to the brain with “tentacles” that secure its position. This makes it virtually impossible to remove some GBMs when they form because they are so securely latched to the brain tissues. The same is true for spinal cord GBMs.
Surgery is often recommended to remove as much of the tumor as possible, however, because this will relieve some pressure and prolong life. This is true even with the rare inherited form of this malignant tumor. There is the possibility of putting this tumor into remission in certain instances, but because the cancer is so aggressive, it can usually defeat radiation and chemotherapy over time.
Age, good initial performance scores, and MGMT gene management are the biggest factors to contribute to a favorable outcome. Much has been learned recently about the DNA and overall makeup of these tumors. Many treatment options are at or near a clinical trial stage. There is a lot of hope on the horizon. Glioblastooma multiforme doesn’t have to win. There can be more survivors, but we must support more research into this field to make that happen.