Pilocytic Astrocytoma

What is pilocytic astrocytoma?

A pilocytic astrocytoma is a brain tumor that originates from star-shaped cells called astrocytes — a kind of glial cell, which support and nourish neurons in the brain. An astrocytoma is a type of glioma. Pilocytic astrocytomas are low-grade gliomas — a family of slow-growing tumors that arise from glial cells. They are the most benign and most treatable of the gliomas, with a cure rate of over over 90 percent.

How we care for pilocytic astrocytomas

Children and adolescents with glioma 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. The Glioma Program also offers families the chance to have their child's tumor molecularly profiled (as long as a biopsy can be taken), which may help identify opportunities for targeted treatment.

Our areas of research for pilocyctic astrocytomas

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, including Pratiti (Mimi) Bandopadhayay, MBBS, PhD, are actively contributing to these efforts.

Our program has contributed to international research efforts that have identified genomic drivers that contribute to growth of pilocytic astrocytoma. Specifically, we have identified genes that are commonly mutated in pilocytic astrocytoma. These findings are guiding clinical trials examining the activity of new drugs specifically for children with pilocytic astrocytoma.