NORD gratefully acknowledges Amy B Heimberger, MD, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common malignant primary brain tumor. These tumors are often aggressive and infiltrate surrounding brain tissue. GBMs arise from glial cells, which are cells that form the tissue that surrounds and protects other nerve cells found within the brain and spinal cord. GBMs are mainly composed of star-shaped glial cells known as astrocytes. The general term glioma includes any type of brain tumor such as astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma that arise from glial cells.
Astrocytomas are classified according to a grading system developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Astrocytomas come in four grades based upon how fast the cells are reproducing and that likelihood that they will infiltrate nearby tissue. Grades I or II astrocytomas are nonmalignant and may be referred to as low-grade. Grades III and IV astrocytomas are malignant and may be referred to as high-grade astrocytomas. Grade III astrocytomas are known as anaplastic astrocytomas. Grade IV astrocytomas are known as glioblastoma multiforme.
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