What is a high-grade glioma?

A high-grade glioma is a brain tumor (that can also be found in the spine) that is made up of glial cells, the supporting cells of the nervous system that provide food and oxygen. High-grade means that the glioma is growing rapidly and spreading faster than low-grade tumors.

The tumors most often originate in the supratentorial region of the brain (the part that we use) and the brain stem.

High-grade gliomas make up 15-20% of all central nervous system tumors in children.

Supratentorial high grade gliomas account for about 6% to 12% of all brain tumors in children.

Each year, 150 to 180 children are diagnosed with high-grade glioma in the U.S.

What causes a high-grade glioma? Who is affected?

The cause of a high-grade glioma remains unknown, but researchers have found there are certain genetic abnormalities associated with these types of tumors.

Syndromes including Li-Fraumeni, Turcot, and neurofibromatosis increase the risk of a high-grade glioma. Children with neurofibromatosis are at higher risk for developing optic pathway gliomas. Tuberous sclerosis can also lead to an increased risk of low-grade glioma called subependymal giant cell astrocytoma.

High-grade gliomas are more common in teenagers and occur equally in boys and girls.

What are the symptoms of a high-grade glioma?

Symptoms of high-grade gliomas depend on which area of the brain is involved. There may be neurological deficits, seizures, and other symptoms caused by increased intracranial pressure. These symptoms include morning headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or decreased vision, sluggish or drowsy, and changes in behavior.

How is a high-grade glioma treated?

Most high-grade gliomas need to undergo maximum surgical resection to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible without damaging other parts of the brain. Precisely targeted doses of radiation therapy kill the remaining cancer cells.