Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a cancerous tumor that arises from the brain tissue itself (primary brain tumor). These tumors, one of many types of glioma, usually arise from the supporting cells in the brain (glial cells). A common tumor grading system rates gliomas on a scale from I to IV. A grade IV lesion, the most malignant type of glioma, is known as a glioblastoma multiforme. A grade III lesion, slightly less malignant, is known as an anaplastic astrocytoma. The incidence of glioblastoma multiforme increases with every decade of life.
Patients with malignant primary brain tumors usually develop cerebral swelling (edema) surrounding the tumor. This often causes headaches, vision changes and changes in personality. They also present with weakness of one side of the body. Occasionally, these lesions present with a seizure.
An MRI scan of the brain with and without contrast is usually the best test to identify a malignant primary brain tumor.
Glioblastoma multiforme is a very aggressive tumor, which, if left untreated, grows quickly. Craniotomy for biopsy and removal of most of the cancerous tumor is usually indicated. This is often followed by radiation therapy (XRT) to the surrounding brain. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with the radiation therapy to help control the growth of the tumors. The most common chemotherapy used for glioblastoma multiforme is Temodar (temozolomide), which is a chemotherapy taken by mouth and is usually well tolerated. Anaplastic astrocytoma is often treated in a similar manner.
Aggressive treatment utilizing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can often control the growth of the tumor for a period of several months to several years. In general, the survival rates for this tumor are much higher in patients less than 50 years of age.