Glioblastoma, or GBM, is the most commonly diagnosed primary malignant brain tumor in adults.
Approximately two to three cases of GBM per 100,000 people are diagnosed each year.
According to Michael Vogelbaum, M.D., PhD, of Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of GBM can vary and are often based on where the tumor is growing.
“Parts of the brain have clearly defined functions, for example, there are areas that are essential for movement of the limbs or for speech and language and vision,” said Dr. Vogelbaum. “When a tumor grows in those areas, it becomes obvious typically earlier than when it grows in more silent part of the brain.”
The most common symptoms of GBM include seizures, progressive headaches or progressive loss of brain functions such as speech and memory.
Dr. Vogelbaum said GBM is the most aggressive form of a brain tumor because it is fast-growing and quickly invades the tissues that surround it.
GBM is diagnosed with the aid of a CT scan and MRI scan.
While there is no cure for GBM, there are a number of treatments available including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Dr. Vogelbaum said treatment for GBM is often challenging because the nature of the type of spread of this tumor is unique and therefore treatment requires multiple approaches.
Because the tumor infiltrates active parts of the brain, not all parts of the tumor cells can always be removed through surgery. Likewise, the nature of the GBM tumors make certain cells more resistant to treatment than others.
GBM can strike at any age, but for most people, diagnosis happens between the ages of 45 and 70.
Dr. Vogelbaum said how a person’s tumor is treated is based more on their underlying health than their age.
“We look at age in two different ways - one is chronological age and the other is physiologic age,” said Dr. Vogelbaum. “One can have an older patient who is in great health and those are patients for whom we do the same kind of treatment as if they were much younger.”
Researchers are working tirelessly to find new treatments for GBM and give people hope.
Dr. Vogelbaum said clinical trials are an essential part of treatment, especially for those with grade four tumors, which are the most aggressive. Most clinical trials are available after a person has failed the standard treatments.