Tectal Gliomas

What is a tectal glioma?

A tectal glioma is a low-grade, slow-growing brain tumor in the tectum, the roof of the brain stem. The brain stem controls vital body functions such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

Despite their origin in a critical part of the body, tectal gliomas have a very high cure rate and the long-term prognosis is usually excellent. Most children with tectal gliomas develop these brain tumors between the ages of 3 and 16. Tectal gliomas tend to develop spontaneously, which means that there is no known environmental or genetic factor that doctors suspect could have caused the tumor to grow.

Low-grade gliomas are a family of brain tumors that are typically non malignant and rarely aggressive. The tumors originate in glial cells, which support and nourish neurons in the brain.

How we care for tectal gliomas

Children with tectal gliomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program — one of the world’s largest pediatric glioma treatment programs. Our internationally-recognized pediatric brain tumor specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of gliomas, including tectal gliomas. Our glioma specialists — a team of neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists — focus solely on the care of children diagnosed with gliomas. Our 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 precision medicine.

Our areas of research for tectal gliomas

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. For instance, a 2014 study led by Peter Manley, MD, documented the excellent long-term survival among patients with low-grade gliomas, and the negative impact of radiation therapy on that survival.

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 Mariella Filbin, MD, PhD, and 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 low-grade glioma. Specifically, we have identified genes that are commonly mutated in low-grade glioma. These findings are guiding clinical trials examining the activity of new drugs specifically for children with low-grade glioma.

Clinical trials for tectal gliomas

Clinical trials, or research studies evaluating new treatment approaches, are a major offering at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

It’s possible that your child will be eligible to participate in one of the Glioma Program’s current brain tumor 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 Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC). We are also the New England Phase I Center of the Children's Oncology Group. If your child has progressive or recurrent tumor, she may be eligible for a number of experimental therapies available through these groups, or from one of our independent clinical investigators.