Anaplastic Astrocytoma

What is an anaplastic astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are a type of brain tumor that arises from brain cells called astrocytes. An anaplastic astrocytoma is both a type of astroctyoma and a high-grade glioma. Anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) are high-grade gliomas and account for approximately 10 percent of childhood brain tumors.

Children in families with neurofibromatosis type I, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and tuberous sclerosis are at higher risk of anaplastic astrocytoma. Approximately 65 percent of anaplastic astrocytoma tumors arise in the cerebral hemispheres, the top part of the brain. About 20 percent occur in the area of the thalamus and hypothalamus or the diencephalon, the area responsible for identification of sensation, such as temperature, pain and touch, regulation of appetite/weight and body temperature, as well as connecting the brainstem to the cortex. Another 15 percent can occur in the region of the cerebellum and brain stem known as the posterior fossa.

The median age at diagnosis of anaplastic astrocytoma is 9 to 10 years old.

How we care for anaplastic astrocytoma

Children with anaplastic astrocytoma are treated at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program, one of the world's largest treatment programs focused on pediatric gliomas. Our specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of gliomas, including anaplastic astrocytoma. Our patients receive multidisciplinary care from neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.

Our areas of research for anaplastic astrocytoma

Clinical and basic scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are conducting numerous research studies to help clinicians better understand and treat malignant gliomas. Through the consortia of researchers to which we belong, a number of novel therapies are available for children with both newly diagnosed and current brain tumors.