Anaplastic Astrocytoma in Children

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Astrocytomas are tumors that arise from brain cells called astrocytes, which are a type of glial cell. An anaplastic astrocytoma is a high-grade (malignant) glioma, originating from the glial (supportive) tissue of the brain. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorder Center's Pediatric Brain Tumor Program provides comprehensive treatment and management of children with anaplastic astrocytomas.

The terms astrocytoma and glioma are sometimes used interchangeably.

Anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme, another type of astrocytoma, account for approximately 10 percent of pediatric central nervous system tumors.

It occurs with increased frequency in families with neurofibromatosis type I, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and tuberous sclerosis.

It is diagnosed using several approaches including CT and MRI imaging scans.

How Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center approaches anaplastic astrocytoma

The usual treatment for anaplastic astrocytomas includes surgery and radiation, and in some cases chemotherapy. The pediatric neuro-oncology and pediatric neurosurgical specialists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's offer:

  • Technological advances such as the intra-operative MRI, which allow our pediatric neurosurgeons to visualize the tumor as they operate with MRI scans, so they can remove as much of the tumor as possible. 
  • Expert diagnosis and consultation by neuropathologists who use advanced molecular diagnostic testing, which may predict which treatments are more likely to work. 
  • Access to unique Phase I clinical trials, from our own investigators, Boston Children’s Oncology Group and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Consortium, that apply personalized medical approaches, including one investigating the use of a gene therapy/immunotherapy at the time of diagnosis.
  • Expert consultation and ongoing care from pediatric neurologists familiar with early symptoms as well as side effects of brain tumors and their treatments.
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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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