Brain & Central Nervous System Cancer

Brain and Central Nervous System Cancer

Definition of brain tumor: The growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

 

General Information About Adult Central Nervous System Tumors

Key Points

  • An adult central nervous system tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the brain and/or spinal cord.
  • A tumor that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is called a metastatic brain tumor.
  • The brain controls many important body functions.
  • The spinal cord connects the brain to nerves in most parts of the body.
  • There are different types of brain and spinal cord tumors.
    • Astrocytic Tumors
    • Oligodendroglial Tumors
    • Mixed Gliomas
    • Ependymal Tumors
    • Medulloblastomas
    • Pineal Parenchymal Tumors
    • Meningeal Tumors
    • Germ Cell Tumors
    • Craniopharyngioma (Grade I)
  • Having certain genetic syndromes may increase the risk of a central nervous system tumor.
  • The cause of most adult brain and spinal cord tumors is not known.
  • The signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every person.
  • Tests that examine the brain and spinal cord are used to diagnose adult brain and spinal cord tumors.
  • A biopsy is also used to diagnose a brain tumor.
    • Sometimes a biopsy or surgery cannot be done.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

An adult central nervous system tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the brain and/or spinal cord.

There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may begin in different parts of the brain or spinal cord. Together, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS).

The tumors may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer):

  • Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may recur (come back).
  • Malignant brain and spinal cord tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue.

When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors cause signs and symptoms and need treatment.

Brain and spinal cord tumors can occur in both adults and children. However, treatment for children may be different than treatment for adults. (See the PDQ summary on Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview for more information on the treatment of children.)

A tumor that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is called a metastatic brain tumor.

Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Often, tumors found in the brain have started somewhere else in the body and spread to one or more parts of the brain. These are called metastatic brain tumors (or brain metastases). Metastatic brain tumors are more common than primary brain tumors.

Up to half of metastatic brain tumors are from lung cancer. Other types of cancer that commonly spread to the brain include:

  • Melanoma.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Colon cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Cancer of unknown primary site.

Cancer may spread to the leptomeninges (the two innermost membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). This is called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. The most common cancers that spread to the leptomeninges include:

  • Breast cancer.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Leukemia.
  • Lymphoma.

The brain controls many important body functions.

The brain has three major parts:

  • The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It is at the top of the head. The cerebrum controls thinking, learning, problem solving, emotions, speech, reading, writing, and voluntary movement.
  • The cerebellum is in the lower back of the brain (near the middle of the back of the head). It controls movement, balance, and posture.
  • The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. It is in the lowest part of the brain (just above the back of the neck). The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles used to see, hear, walk, talk, and eat.

The spinal cord connects the brain to nerves in most parts of the body.

The spinal cord is a column of nerve tissue that runs from the brain stem down the center of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of tissue called membranes. These membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). Spinal cord nerves carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body, such as a message from the brain to cause muscles to move or a message from the skin to the brain to feel touch.

There are different types of brain and spinal cord tumors.

Brain and spinal cord tumors are named based on the type of cell they formed in and where the tumor first formed in the CNS. The grade of a tumor may be used to tell the difference between slow-growing and fast-growing types of the tumor. The World Health Organization (WHO) tumor grades are based on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

WHO Tumor Grading System

  • Grade I (low-grade) — The tumor cells look more like normal cells under a microscope and grow and spread more slowly than grade II, III, and IV tumor cells. They rarely spread into nearby tissues. Grade I brain tumors may be cured if they are completely removed by surgery.
  • Grade II — The tumor cells grow and spread more slowly than grade III and IV tumor cells. They may spread into nearby tissue and may recur (come back). Some tumors may become a higher-grade tumor.
  • Grade III — The tumor cells look very different from normal cells under a microscope and grow more quickly than grade I and II tumor cells. They are likely to spread into nearby tissue.
  • Grade IV (high-grade) — The tumor cells do not look like normal cells under a microscope and grow and spread very quickly. There may be areas of dead cells in the tumor. Grade IV tumors usually cannot be cured.

The following types of primary tumors can form in the brain or spinal cord:

Astrocytic Tumors

An astrocytic tumor begins in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An astrocyte is a type of glial cell. Glial cells sometimes form tumors called gliomas. Astrocytic tumors include the following:

  • Brain stem glioma (usually high grade): A brain stem glioma forms in the brain stem, which is the part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. It is often a high-grade tumor, which spreads widely through the brain stem and is hard to cure. Brain stem gliomas are rare in adults. (See the PDQ summary on Childhood Brain Stem Glioma Treatment for more information.)
  • Pineal astrocytic tumor (any grade): A pineal astrocytic tumor forms in tissue around the pineal gland and may be any grade. The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the brain that makes melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleeping and waking cycle.
  • Pilocytic astrocytoma (grade I): A pilocytic astrocytoma grows slowly in the brain or spinal cord. It may be in the form of a cyst and rarely spreads into nearby tissues. Pilocytic astrocytomas can often be cured.
  • Diffuse astrocytoma (grade II): A diffuse astrocytoma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look something like normal cells. In some cases, a diffuse astrocytoma can be cured. It is also called a low-grade diffuse astrocytoma.
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma (grade III): An anaplastic astrocytoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. An anaplastic astrocytoma is also called a malignant astrocytoma or high-grade astrocytoma.
  • Glioblastoma (grade IV): A glioblastoma grows and spreads very quickly. The tumor cells look very different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. It is also called glioblastoma multiforme.

Oligodendroglial Tumors

An oligodendroglial tumor begins in brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An oligodendrocyte is a type of glial cell. Oligodendrocytes sometimes form tumors called oligodendrogliomas. Grades of oligodendroglial tumors include the following:

  • Oligodendroglioma (grade II): An oligodendroglioma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look something like normal cells. In some cases, an oligodendroglioma can be cured.
  • Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (grade III): An anaplastic oligodendroglioma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured.

Mixed Gliomas

A mixed glioma is a brain tumor that has two types of tumor cells in it — oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. This type of mixed tumor is called an oligoastrocytoma.

  • Oligoastrocytoma (grade II): An oligoastrocytoma is a slow-growing tumor. The tumor cells look something like normal cells. In some cases, an oligoastrocytoma can be cured.
  • Anaplastic oligoastrocytoma (grade III): An anaplastic oligoastrocytoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor has a worse prognosis than oligoastrocytoma (grade II).

Ependymal Tumors

An ependymal tumor usually begins in cells that line the fluid -filled spaces in the brain and around the spinal cord. An ependymal tumor may also be called an ependymoma. Grades of ependymomas include the following:

  • Ependymoma (grade I or II): A grade I or II ependymoma grows slowly and has cells that look something like normal cells. There are two types of grade I ependymoma — myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma. A grade II ependymoma grows in a ventricle (fluid-filled space in the brain) and its connecting paths or in the spinal cord. In some cases, a grade I or II ependymoma can be cured.
  • Anaplastic ependymoma (grade III): An anaplastic ependymoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually has a worse prognosis than a grade I or II ependymoma.

Medulloblastomas

A medulloblastoma is a type of embryonal tumor. Medulloblastomas are most common in children or young adults.

Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

A pineal parenchymal tumor forms in parenchymal cells or pineocytes, which are the cells that make up most of the pineal gland. These tumors are different from pineal astrocytic tumors. Grades of pineal parenchymal tumors include the following:

  • Pineocytoma (grade II): A pineocytoma is a slow-growing pineal tumor.
  • Pineoblastoma (grade IV): A pineoblastoma is a rare tumor that is very likely to spread.

Meningeal Tumors

A meningeal tumor, also called a meningioma, forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord). It can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells. Meningiomas are most common in adults. Types of meningeal tumors include the following:

  • Meningioma (grade I): A grade I meningioma is the most common type of meningeal tumor. A grade I meningioma is a slow-growing tumor. It forms most often in the dura mater. A grade I meningioma can be cured if it is completely removed by surgery.
  • Meningioma (grade II and III): This is a rare meningeal tumor. It grows quickly and is likely to spread within the brain and spinal cord. The prognosis is worse than a grade I meningioma because the tumor usually cannot be completely removed by surgery.

A hemangiopericytoma is not a meningeal tumor but is treated like a grade II or III meningioma. A hemangiopericytoma usually forms in the dura mater. The prognosis is worse than a grade I meningioma because the tumor usually cannot be completely removed by surgery.

Germ Cell Tumors

A germ cell tumor forms in germ cells, which are the cells that develop into sperm in men or ova (eggs) in women. There are different types of germ cell tumors. These include germinomas, teratomas, embryonal yolk sac carcinomas, and choriocarcinomas. Germ cell tumors can be either benign or malignant.

Craniopharyngioma (Grade I)

A craniopharyngioma is a rare tumor that usually forms in the center of the brain just above the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ at the bottom of the brain that controls other glands). Craniopharyngiomas can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells.

Having certain genetic syndromes may increase the risk of a central nervous system tumor.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. There are few known risk factors for brain tumors. The following conditions may increase the risk of certain types of brain tumors:

  • Being exposed to vinyl chloride may increase the risk of glioma.
  • Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, having AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), or receiving an organ transplant may increase the risk of primary CNS lymphoma. (See the PDQ summary on Primary CNS Lymphoma for more information.)
  • Having certain genetic syndromes may increase the risk brain tumors:
    • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) or 2 (NF2).
    • von Hippel-Lindau disease.
    • Tuberous sclerosis.
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
    • Turcot syndrome type 1 or 2.
    • Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome.

The cause of most adult brain and spinal cord tumors is not known.

The signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every person.

Signs and symptoms depend on the following:

  • Where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord.
  • What the affected part of the brain controls.
  • The size of the tumor.

Signs and symptoms may be caused by CNS tumors or by other conditions, including cancer that has spread to the brain. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

Brain Tumor Symptoms

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting.
  • Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus, or behavior.
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking.
  • Weakness.
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level.

Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms

  • Back pain or pain that spreads from the back towards the arms or legs.
  • A change in bowel habits or trouble urinating.
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Trouble walking.

Tests that examine the brain and spinal cord are used to diagnose adult brain and spinal cord tumors.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Neurological exam : A series of questions and tests to check the brain, spinal cord, and nerve function. The exam checks a person’s mental status, coordination, and ability to walk normally, and how well the muscles, senses, and reflexes work. This may also be called a neuro exam or a neurologic exam.
  • Visual field exam: An exam to check a person’s field of vision (the total area in which objects can be seen). This test measures both central vision (how much a person can see when looking straight ahead) and peripheral vision (how much a person can see in all other directions while staring straight ahead). Any loss of vision may be a sign of a tumor that has damaged or pressed on the parts of the brain that affect eyesight.
  • Tumor marker test : A procedure in which a sample of blood, urine, or tissue is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances made by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body. Certain substances are linked to specific types of cancer when found in increased levels in the body. These are called tumor markers. This test may be done to diagnose a germ cell tumor.
  • Gene testing : A laboratory test in which a sample of blood or tissue is tested for changes in a chromosome that has been linked with a certain type of brain tumor. This test may be done to diagnose an inherited syndrome.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) with gadolinium : A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of the brain and spinal cord. A substance called gadolinium is injected into a vein. The gadolinium collects around the cancer cells so they show up brighter in the picture. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI). MRI is often used to diagnose tumors in the spinal cord. Sometimes a procedure called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is done during the MRI scan. An MRS is used to diagnose tumors, based on their chemical make-up.
  • SPECT scan (single photon emission computed tomography scan): A procedure that uses a special camera linked to a computer to make a 3-dimensional (3-D) picture of the brain. A very small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into a vein or inhaled through the nose. As the substance travels through the blood, the camera rotates around the head and takes pictures of the brain. Blood flow and metabolism are higher than normal in areas where cancer cells are growing. These areas will show up brighter in the picture. This procedure may be done just before or after a CT scan. SPECT is used to tell the difference between a primary tumor and a tumor that has spread to the brain from somewhere else in the body.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the brain. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do. PET is used to tell the difference between a primary tumor and a tumor that has spread to the brain from somewhere else in the body.

A biopsy is also used to diagnose a brain tumor.

If imaging tests show there may be a brain tumor, a biopsy is usually done. One of the following types of biopsies may be used:

  • Stereotactic biopsy : When imaging tests show there may be a tumor deep in the brain in a hard to reach place, a stereotactic brain biopsy may be done. This kind of biopsy uses a computer and a 3-dimensional (3-D) scanning device to find the tumor and guide the needle used to remove the tissue. A small incision is made in the scalp and a small hole is drilled through the skull. A biopsy needle is inserted through the hole to remove cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer.
  • Open biopsy : When imaging tests show that there may be a tumor that can be removed by surgery, an open biopsy may be done. A part of the skull is removed in an operation called a craniotomy. A sample of brain tissue is removed and viewed under a microscope by a pathologist. If cancer cells are found, some or all of the tumor may be removed during the same surgery. Tests are done before surgery to find the areas around the tumor that are important for normal brain function. There are also ways to test brain function during surgery. The doctor will use the results of these tests to remove as much of the tumor as possible with the least damage to normal tissue in the brain.
  • The pathologist checks the biopsy sample to find out the type and grade of brain tumor. The grade of the tumor is based on how the tumor cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

    The following tests may be done on the tumor tissue that is removed:

    • Immunohistochemistry : A test that uses antibodies to check for certain antigens in a sample of tissue. The antibody is usually linked to a radioactive substance or a dye that causes the tissue to light up under a microscope. This type of test may be used to tell the difference between different types of cancer.
    • Light and electron microscopy : A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under regular and high-powered microscopes to look for certain changes in the cells.
    • Cytogenetic analysis : A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes.

    Sometimes a biopsy or surgery cannot be done.

    For some tumors, a biopsy or surgery cannot be done safely because of where the tumor formed in the brain or spinal cord. These tumors are diagnosed and treated based on the results of imaging tests and other procedures.

    Sometimes the results of imaging tests and other procedures show that the tumor is very likely to be benign and a biopsy is not done.

    Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

    The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options for primary brain and spinal cord tumors depend on the following:

    • The type and grade of the tumor.
    • Where the tumor is in the brain or spinal cord.
    • Whether the tumor can be removed by surgery.
    • Whether cancer cells remain after surgery.
    • Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes.
    • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).
    • The patient’s general health.

    The prognosis and treatment options for metastatic brain and spinal cord tumors depend on the following:

    • Whether there are more than two tumors in the brain or spinal cord.
    • Where the tumor is in the brain or spinal cord.
    • How well the tumor responds to treatment.
    • Whether the primary tumor continues to grow or spread.

    Stages of Adult Central Nervous System Tumors

    Key Points

    • There is no standard staging system for adult brain and spinal cord tumors.
    • Imaging tests may be repeated after surgery to help plan more treatment.

    There is no standard staging system for adult brain and spinal cord tumors.

    The extent or spread of cancer is usually described as stages. There is no standard staging system for brain and spinal cord tumors. Brain tumors that begin in the brain may spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Treatment of primary brain and spinal cord tumors is based on the following:

    • The type of cell in which the tumor began.
    • Where the tumor formed in the brain or spinal cord.
    • The amount of cancer left after surgery.
    • The grade of the tumor.

    Treatment of tumors that have spread to the brain from other parts of the body is based on the number of tumors in the brain.

    Imaging tests may be repeated after surgery to help plan more treatment.

    Some of the tests and procedures used to diagnose a brain or spinal cord tumor may be repeated after treatment to find out how much tumor is left.

    Recurrent Adult Central Nervous System Tumors

    A recurrent central nervous system (CNS) tumor is a tumor that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. CNS tumors often recur, sometimes many years after the first tumor. The tumor may recur at the same place as the first tumor or in other parts of the central nervous system.

    Treatment Option Overview

    Key Points

    • There are different types of treatment for patients with adult brain and spinal cord tumors.
    • Five types of standard treatment are used:
      • Active surveillance
      • Surgery
      • Radiation therapy
      • Chemotherapy
      • Targeted therapy
    • Supportive care is given to lessen the problems caused by the disease or its treatment.
    • New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
      • Proton beam radiation therapy
      • Biologic therapy
    • Treatment for adult central nervous system tumors may cause side effects.
    • Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
    • Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
    • Follow-up tests may be needed.

    There are different types of treatment for patients with adult brain and spinal cord tumors.

    Different types of treatment are available for patients with adult brain and spinal cord tumors. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

    Five types of standard treatment are used:

    Active surveillance

    Active surveillance is closely watching a patient’s condition but not giving any treatment unless there are changes in test results that show the condition is getting worse. Active surveillance may be used to avoid or delay the need for treatments such as radiation therapy or surgery, which can cause side effects or other problems. During active surveillance, certain exams and tests are done on a regular schedule. Active surveillance may be used for very slow-growing tumors that do not cause symptoms.

    Surgery

    Surgery may be used to diagnose and treat adult brain and spinal cord tumors. Removing tumor tissue helps decrease pressure of the tumor on nearby parts of the brain. See the General Information section of this summary.

    After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

    Radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

    • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
      • Certain ways of giving radiation therapy can help keep radiation from damaging nearby healthy tissue. These types of radiation therapy include the following:

        • Conformal radiation therapy: Conformal radiation therapy is a type of external radiation therapy that uses a computer to make a 3-dimensional (3-D) picture of the tumor and shapes the radiation beams to fit the tumor.
        • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is a type of 3-dimensional (3-D) external radiation therapy that uses a computer to make pictures of the size and shape of the tumor. Thin beams of radiation of different intensities (strengths) are aimed at the tumor from many angles.
        • Stereotactic radiosurgery: Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of external radiation therapy. A rigid head frame is attached to the skull to keep the head still during the radiation treatment. A machine aims a single large dose of radiation directly at the tumor. This procedure does not involve surgery. It is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery, radiosurgery, and radiation surgery.
      • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

      The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and grade of tumor and where it is in the brain or spinal cord. External radiation therapy is used to treat adult central nervous system tumors.

      Chemotherapy

      Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Combination chemotherapy is treatment using more than one anticancer drug. To treat brain tumors, a wafer that dissolves may be used to deliver an anticancer drug directly to the brain tumor site after the tumor has been removed by surgery. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and grade of tumor and where it is in the brain.

      Anticancer drugs given by mouth or vein to treat brain and spinal cord tumors cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Instead, an anticancer drug is injected into the fluid-filled space to kill cancer cells there. This is called intrathecal chemotherapy.

      Targeted therapy

      Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.

      Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

      Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and may prevent the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Bevacizumab is used in the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma.

      Other types of targeted therapies are being studied for adult brain tumors, including tyrosine kinase inhibitors and new VEGF inhibitors.

      See Drugs Approved for Brain Tumors for more information.

      Supportive care is given to lessen the problems caused by the disease or its treatment.

      This therapy controls problems or side effects caused by the disease or its treatment and improves quality of life. For brain tumors, supportive care includes drugs to control seizures and fluid buildup or swelling in the brain.

      New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

      This summary section refers to new treatments being studied in clinical trials, but it may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

      Proton beam radiation therapy

      Proton beam radiation therapy is a type of high-energy, external radiation therapy that uses streams of protons (small, positively-charged pieces of matter) to make radiation. This type of radiation kills tumor cells with little damage to nearby tissues. It is used to treat cancers of the head, neck, and spine and organs such as the brain, eye, lung, and prostate. Proton beam radiation is different from x-ray radiation.

      Biologic therapy

      Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

      Biologic therapy is being studied for the treatment of some types of brain tumors. Treatments may include the following:

      • Dendritic cell vaccine therapy.
      • Gene therapy.

      Treatment for adult central nervous system tumors may cause side effects.

      For information about side effects caused by treatment for cancer, see our Side Effects page.

      Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

      For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

      Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

      Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

      Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

      Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

      Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about clinical trials supported by NCI can be found on NCI’s clinical trials search webpage. Clinical trials supported by other organizations can be found on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

      Follow-up tests may be needed.

      Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.

      Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.

      The following tests and procedures may be used to check whether a brain tumor has come back after treatment:

      • SPECT scan (single photon emission computed tomography scan): A procedure that uses a special camera linked to a computer to make a 3-dimensional (3-D) picture of the brain. A very small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into a vein or inhaled through the nose. As the substance travels through the blood, the camera rotates around the head and takes pictures of the brain. Blood flow and metabolism are higher than normal in areas where cancer cells are growing. These areas will show up brighter in the picture. This procedure may be done just before or after a CT scan.
      • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the brain. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
      • Treatment Options by Type of Primary Adult Brain Tumor

        For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

        Astrocytic Tumors

        Brain Stem Gliomas

        Treatment of brain stem gliomas may include the following:

        • Radiation therapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Pineal Astrocytic Tumors

        Treatment of pineal astrocytic tumors may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy. For high-grade tumors, chemotherapy may also be given.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Pilocytic Astrocytomas

        Treatment of pilocytic astrocytomas may include the following:

        • Surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation therapy may also be given if tumor remains after surgery.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Diffuse Astrocytomas

        Treatment of diffuse astrocytomas may include the following:

        • Surgery with or without radiation therapy.
        • Surgery followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Anaplastic Astrocytomas

        Treatment of anaplastic astrocytomas may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may also be given.
        • Surgery and chemotherapy.
        • A clinical trial of chemotherapy placed into the brain during surgery.
        • A clinical trial of a new treatment added to standard treatment.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Glioblastomas

        Treatment of glioblastomas may include the following:

        • Surgery followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy given at the same time, followed by chemotherapy alone.
        • Surgery followed by radiation therapy.
        • Chemotherapy placed into the brain during surgery.
        • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy given at the same time.
        • A clinical trial of a new treatment added to standard treatment.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Oligodendroglial Tumors

        Treatment of oligodendrogliomas may include the following:

        • Surgery with or without radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may be given after radiation therapy.

        Treatment of anaplastic oligodendroglioma may include the following:

        • Surgery followed by radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy.
        • A clinical trial of a new treatment added to standard treatment.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Mixed Gliomas

        Treatment of mixed gliomas may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy. Sometimes chemotherapy is also given.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Ependymal Tumors

        Treatment of grade I and grade II ependymomas may include the following:

        • Surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation therapy may also be given if tumor remains after surgery.

        Treatment of grade III anaplastic ependymoma may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Medulloblastomas

        Treatment of medulloblastomas may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy to the brain and spine.
        • A clinical trial of chemotherapy added to surgery and radiation therapy to the brain and spine

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

        Treatment of pineal parenchymal tumors may include the following:

        • For pineocytomas, surgery and radiation therapy.
        • For pineoblastomas, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Meningeal Tumors

        Treatment of grade I meningiomas may include the following:

        • Active surveillance for tumors with no signs or symptoms.
        • Surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation therapy may also be given if tumor remains after surgery.
        • Stereotactic radiosurgery for tumors smaller than 3 centimeters.
        • Radiation therapy for tumors that cannot be removed by surgery.

        Treatment of grade II and III meningiomas and hemangiopericytoma s may include the following:

        • Surgery and radiation therapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Germ Cell Tumors

        There is no standard treatment for germ cell tumors (germinoma, embryonal carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma). Treatment depends on what the tumor cells look like under a microscope, the tumor markers, where the tumor is in the brain, and whether it can be removed by surgery.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Craniopharyngiomas

        Treatment of craniopharyngiomas may include the following:

        • Surgery to completely remove the tumor.
        • Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Treatment Options for Primary Adult Spinal Cord Tumors

        For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

        Treatment of spinal cord tumors may include the following:

        • Surgery to remove the tumor.
        • Radiation therapy.
        • A clinical trial of a new treatment.

        Treatment Options for Recurrent Adult Central Nervous System Tumors

        For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

        There is no standard treatment for recurrent central nervous system (CNS) tumors. Treatment depends on the patient’s condition, the expected side effects of the treatment, where the tumor is in the CNS, and whether the tumor can be removed by surgery. Treatment may include the following:

        • Chemotherapy placed into the brain during surgery.
        • Chemotherapy with drugs not used to treat the original tumor.
        • Targeted therapy for recurrent glioblastoma.
        • Radiation therapy.
        • Surgery to remove the tumor.
        • A clinical trial of a new treatment.

        Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

        Treatment Options for Metastatic Adult Brain Tumors

        For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

        Treatment of one to four tumors that have spread to the brain from another part of the body may include the following:

        • Radiation therapy to the whole brain with or without surgery.
        • Radiation therapy to the whole brain with or without stereotactic radiosurgery.
        • Stereotactic radiosurgery.
        • Chemotherapy, if the primary tumor is one that responds to anticancer drugs. It may be combined with radiation therapy.

        Treatment of tumors that have spread to the leptomeninges may include the following:

        • Chemotherapy (systemic and/or intrathecal). Radiation therapy may also be given.
        • Supportive care.

Updated: July 5, 2018
Source: National Cancer Institute


Other treatments

Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)
This study showed results that support the efficacy of Chinese Skullcap as an anticancer agent for glioblastomas multiforme.

Vitamin C and Doxycycline
This study found that antibiotics, such as Doxycycline, could eradicate Cancer Stem Cells in multiple cancer types. These include: DCIS, breast (ER(+) and ER(-)), ovarian, prostate, lung, and pancreatic carcinomas, as well as melanoma and glioblastoma. The study authors propose the combined use of Doxycycline and Vitamin C as a new strategy for eradicating CSCs.

Falcarinol and falcarindiol
Polyacetylenes derived from carrot and parsley

The authors of this study say they provide several pieces of evidence suggesting that falcarindiol has the anticancer role by targeting glioblastoma cells, as well as glioblastoma stem-like cells.

Metformin (see comp therapies)

For Glioblastoma patients, this study found that a combination of high-dose Metformin and Temozolomide showed the highest cancer cell death activity.


This film charts the remarkable story of Ben Williams, professor emeritus of experimental psychology at University of California, San Diego. Diagnosed in 1995 with the most lethal cancer known to medicine, a primary brain tumour called glioblastoma multiforme, he was given just a few months to live. But a natural born maverick, and rigorous scientist, Ben decided he woud not go down without a fight. Nineteen years later his story is an inspiration to patients the world over, whilst his case is dismissed by the medical community as just one of a handful of statistical outliers...more at SurvivingTerminalCancer.com


Bens Story

Source: CancerActive.com

The Professor who cured his own ´terminal´ brain cancer with a cocktail of non-cancer drugs and supplements

Professor Ben Williams beat GBM, brain cancer using orthodox therapies supported by his own concoction of compounds he added based on his own extensive research.

20 years after his diagnosis, and having celebrated his 70th birthday, he tells how he used cheap, common medicines to build his complementary and integrative programme. And he defied all the odds.

31st March 1995 and Ben Williams, a psychology professor from University of California, San Diego, is undergoing emergency surgery, diagnosed with a terminal glioblastoma, a grade 4 brain tumour. The entire right side of his brain was ‘infested’ with cancer, according to his narrative.

He was told he’d be dead inside a year.

But in 2015 he visited London, and has been clear of cancer since 1998.

At the time of his diagnosis, Ben was 50.

Even today with new treatments, the average survival time is just 15 months. Only 8 per cent of older people last 5 years.

Ben had the surgery. There was still 2 cms of tumour invasion. He considered many options spending hours in the University library, on the Internet and talking with medical friends.

He opted to have BCNU – carmustine – but alternated it with PCV, a three drug combination that has been shown to have positive effects in 75% of people, and negative side-effects in 91%.

But his research had shown him other options. He was interested by how, given one attacking drug, the cancer would mutate and become resistant, so he decided to use several simultaneously. But not the drugs you might expect!

Ben built his own Complementary and Integrative treatment package. He added Tamoxifen (the anti-oestrogenic breast cancer drug – many brain tumours are held in the stem cell state by oestrogen) and verapramil, a calcium channel blocker used for blood pressure treatment, which research showed would enhance chemotherapy action. He also added accutane, a retinoid – of vitamin A origin – used to treat acne but with anti-cancer properties – and melatonin – the insomnia drug, but known to have antioxidant, anti-growth hormone and anti-oestrogenic properties. Finally he used cimetidine (tagamet) which is an antacid. An antihistamine, it is known to stop cancer cells sticking together and forming new tumours.

Throughout his treatment he added supplements like the anti-oestrogenic genestein, PSK (a mushroom extract with strong anti-cancer benefits), flax seed oil (for the fatty acids, helpful to brain tissue, borage seed oil (for gamma-linoleic acid) selenium, milk thistle and green tea extract. He also consumed large quantities of broccoli sprouts, garlic, raspberries and blueberries, onions and soy products. He has been clear according to MRI scans for 20 years now.


Antineoplastons treatment

Antineoplastons were discovered by Stanislaw R. Burzynski, M.D., Ph.D. in 1967 who first identified their anti-cancer properties. Antineoplastons are naturally occurring peptides demonstrating ability to re-program cancer cells without destroying normal cells. Due to their low-toxicity and anti-cancer activity antineoplastons represent a revolutionary avenue in cancer research.
Antineoplastons page

Tumor-treating Fields therapy

TTF therapy is a locally or regionally delivered treatment that uses electric fields within the human body that disrupt the rapid cell division exhibited by cancer cells. TTF therapy was developed to provide physicians and patients with a fourth treatment option for cancer in addition to surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Tumor-treating Fields page

Clomipramine

Clomipramine is a drug used for depression, called a tricyclic anti depressant. Some researchers think it might help to treat glioma brain tumours. There has been some lab based research that showed the drug could encourage death of cancer cells, but not healthy brain cells.

Clomipramine page

Boswellia serrata

The resin from Boswellia serrata has an important role in treating brain cancer. Boswellic acid has been shown to demonstrate anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumor activity in several animal models. It also reduces inflammation and prevents metastasis. Boswellia may be doubly useful for primary brain tumors. Studies tell us that in addition to helping reduce cerebral swelling around the tumor, boswellia also kills glioblastoma cells.

Boswellia serrata page

See also

All Your Treatment Options

Tests you need to know about

Vital questions to ask your doctor / oncologist

Steps to Recovery

Source References include:
National Cancer Institute
survivingterminalcancer.com
burzynskiclinic.com/


Hannah Bradley was successfully treated for Brain tumor by Dr Burzynski

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