Astrocytoma

What is an astrocytoma?

An astrocytoma is a brain tumor that originates from star-shaped cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes are a kind of glial cell, cells that support and nourish neurons in the brain. Like other kinds of gliomas (tumors that arise from glial cells), astrocytomas are divided into four grades, depending on their cells' appearance under a microscope; the higher a tumor's grade number, the more severe it is. Grades 1 and 2 are considered low-grade astrocytomas, and grades 3 and 4 are considered high-grade astrocytomas.

Most astrocytomas are both highly treatable and highly curable. The most common kind of astrocytoma, called a pilocytic astrocytoma, has a cure rate over 90 percent.

How we care for astrocytomas

Children and adolescents with astrocytomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Brain Tumor Center's Glioma Program, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric glioma programs in the world. Our glioma specialists — a team of neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists — focus solely on the care of children diagnosed with gliomas.

Our areas of research for astrocytomas

Research is a top priority at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, and our physicians work continuously to translate laboratory findings into clinical therapies and find ways to improve survival while reducing the toxicity and long-term impact of treatment. The Glioma Program's research enterprise mirrors its clinical efforts in its multidisciplinary nature. Basic, translational and clinical scientists in the program work together and with colleagues at institutions like the Broad Institute to uncover new knowledge about the biology of gliomas and translate that understanding into new therapies or ways of overcoming resistance to existing ones.

Dana-Farber/Boston Children's houses the Pediatric Low-grade Astrocytoma (PLGA) Program, the world's only multidisciplinary clinical and research program dedicated to pediatric low-grade gliomas. Established in 2007 with support from the PLGA Foundation, the program takes a multifaceted approach to finding more effective, less toxic treatments and a cure for children battling brain tumors, and has become the standard bearer for the research and care of pediatric brain tumors. Our pediatric neuro-oncologists are actively contributing to these efforts.

It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of the Glioma Program’s current clinical trials. In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also offer trials available through collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC).