Researchers and Advocates Work Together to Advance Glioblastoma Understanding and Treatment

Brain cancer researchers and advocates join resources to help tackle this rare and aggressive malignancy.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Brain CURE discussion group.
During the spring of 2008, Edward Kennedy, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Approximately 15 months after diagnosis, and following standard treatment consisting of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Kennedy died from the disease.

Close to half a decade after Senator Kennedy's death, interest has grown in the treatment of this disease. In an effort to improve outcomes for those with GBM, the National Brain Tumor Society (NTBS), a clearinghouse for information about brain cancers, has launched its "Defeat GBM Research Collaborative." This initiative is a multi-site research effort with a goal of doubling the five-year survival rate of GBM patients. To do this, the NBTS has created a network of brain tumor researchers in cancer institutions from around the world to collaboratively conduct focused research. These investigator teams, in turn, are being overseen by a group of brain cancer experts forming the Strategic Scientific Advisory Council.

[Patients and survivors connect on Twitter with #BTSM]

Improving outcomes for those diagnosed with GBM is important both to the NBTS and the specialists who diagnose and treat this disease. Patients with GBM have a median survival of fewer than 15 months and the five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent. The NTBS also classifies GBM as "the most common and deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors in adults."

The good news in GBM research is that imaging technologies developed during the latter part of the 20th century have helped researchers, clinicians and doctors better diagnosis the disease.

This type of brain cancer also has debilitative secondary impacts as well such as physical degeneration, loss of speech and motor skills. Adding to the issue is that it isn't readily diagnosed at an early and more curable stage. Often, by the time patients see a physician for blinding headaches, seizures or loss of motor skills, the cancer has already gained a solid foothold in the brain.

GBM is classified as primary or secondary. Primary glioblastomas are referred to as de novo–in other words, they develop quickly without any clinical evidence of a pre-existing, less cancerous lesion. This primary brain cancer, which is often diagnosed among older patients, accounts for approximately 60 percent of all GBM cases.

Secondary glioblastomas typically develop as a malignant progression from a low-grade astrocytoma and is found mostly in patients younger than 45 years of age. Astrocytomas are tumors that develop from astrocytes, which are, in turn, the tissues that support the brain. In addition to having different pathologies, primary and secondary GBMs differ in that the latter has a better prognosis for length of survival time.

[Read "Who's to blame for lack of brain cancer awareness?" by Liz Salmi]

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Brain CURE discussion group.
Related Articles
Most Childhood Cancer Survivors Have at Least One Chronic Health Condition
A new study has found that although the number of childhood cancer survivors is increasing, the majority of those to survive five or more years beyond diagnosis have at least one chronic health condition.
Rintega Receives Breakthrough Designation for EGFRvIII-Positive Glioblastoma
Rintega (rindopepimut) has gained a Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA to treat adult patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) that test positive for the EGFR variant (EGFRvIII).
Lauren Hill Inspired Many With Her Bravery and Commitment to Brain Cancer Research
Lauren Hill, a college basketball player diagnosed with a rare childhood brain tumor, brought attention to the disease and raised more than $1 million for DIPG research. Hill passed away on April 10.
NORD Offers Information and Support for Patients of Rare Cancers
NORD was founded in 1983 by parents of children with rare diseases. Over the past 30 years, it has become a powerful advocacy voice for all patients with rare diseases, including cancer.
Rare Finds: A Rare Cancer Diagnosis
Finding specialized care is worth the effort for patients with uncommon cancers.
Related Videos
Advice for Patients with Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma
James Battiste, an oncologist with Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., says patients with glioblastoma will likely have a lot of questions about the diagnosis.
Recent Publications
  • photo
  • photo