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What is a glioma?

A glioma is a kind of brain tumor that originates from glial cells that support and nourish neurons in the brain. Gliomas account for about 25 percent of childhood cancers, and most gliomas are both highly treatable and highly curable. The most common kind of glioma, called a pilocytic astrocytoma, has a cure rate of more than 90 percent.

Gliomas are divided into four grades, depending on the tumor 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 gliomas and account for about two-thirds of all pediatric tumors. Grades 3 and 4 are considered high-grade gliomas. Gliomas can also be classified based on their location and by the kind of glial cell — astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, or ependymocytes — from which they arise.

Glioma | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of gliomas?

As a glioma grows, it presses on surrounding healthy parts of the brain, affecting their function. As such, the symptoms of a pediatric glioma depend heavily on the tumor's size and where in the brain it is located. Some of the most common symptoms of a pediatric glioma include:

Glioma | Diagnosis & Treatments

How are gliomas diagnosed?

To diagnose a pediatric glioma, your doctor will take your child's medical history and carry out both physical and neurological exams. Your doctor may also order a variety of tests, including:

What are the treatment options for gliomas?

Our treatment approach for pediatric gliomas is personalized for each patient depending on several factors, including the tumor's type, stage, and location. Some therapies will treat the tumor, while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment.

In addition, our clinicians may offer access to targeted treatments based on the molecular profile of your child's tumor. Some of the options your doctor may discuss include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

How we care for gliomas

Children and adolescents with glioma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorder 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.

Glioma | Research & Innovation

Our areas of research for giomas

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.

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 Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC).

Glioma | Programs & Services