Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most prevalent and malignant type of glioma brain tumor. It is a grade 4 astrocytoma tumor, meaning it is a central nervous system tumor of the highest level.
GBM’s are composed of a heterogeneous mixture of poorly differentiated neoplastic astrocytes. GBM’s are usually located in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain and classified as primary or secondary.
Primary GBM’s account for approximately 60% of cases, most frequently affecting adults over the age of fifty. However rare, they can also affect the brain stem and spinal cord in children. Primary GBM’s develop quickly, usually in less than three months.
Secondary GBM’s make up the other 40% of cases and tend to develop in people younger than forty-five years old. Secondary GBM’s can develop in the first decade of life, averaging the fourth or fifth year. The rate of development depends on various factors, including age, various genetic pathways, and the buildup of different cellular mutations.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms for a GBM are much like those of other brain tumors: abnormal pulse and breathing rates; deep, dull headaches that occur often and for long amounts of time; changes in mood, personality, and mental capacity; difficulty walking or speaking; double vision and other eyesight problems; slowing of cognitive function; and prolonged dizziness, seizures, and vomiting. The type and severity of a patient’s symptoms varies according to the location and behavior of the GBM.
It is difficult to divide the development of a GBM into stages, due to its propensity to spread into local tissues surrounding the tumor. However, as they are among one of the most malignant tumors found in humans and have a high mortality rate, the onset of any GBM is classified as a stage four tumor.
There is no current treatment effective against glioblastoma multiforme. This is a result of its rapid spread into surrounding brain tissues, not allowing the tumor to be completely removed. The brain itself presents complications to treatments, being that it is so easily damaged during therapy and has a limited ability to repair itself.
Also, most glioma cells are naturally resistant to radiation therapy and chemotherapy, though these techniques can help to control the growth of high-grade glioma tumors. These techniques have been found to help with the various symptoms of glioblastoma multiforme and help prolong quality survival, but do not cure the disease itself.
There are no medications that help with the treatment of a GBM, but some medications are prescribed to help with symptoms caused by the disease, particularly seizures.
Being that GBM’s are among the most malignant tumors found in humans, many patients with a GBM die within one year, due to the rapid spreading of the tumors and the inability to completely remove them from the surrounding brain tissue.