Glioblastoma (GBM), also known as glioblastoma multiforme, is an aggressive cancer occurring in the brain or the spinal cord. They develop from astrocytes cells, which form the blood-brain barrier. The barrier determines which substances can get into the brain and which can’t. Astrocytes also help support nerve cells and deliver nutrients to them.
Brain tumors are graded based on their aggressiveness — grade I brain tumors are the least aggressive, and grade IV is the most aggressive. GBMs are grade IV astrocytomas because they grow quickly and often spread into nearby brain tissue.
Our Approach to Glioblastoma
Glioblastoma is the most common form of malignant brain tumor and is known for its rapid growth and resistance to most treatments. Only one in 10 glioblastoma patients survive five years after initial diagnosis. Despite some treatment advances in recent years, malignant brain tumors, on the whole, are the most common cause of cancer-related deaths among adolescents and young adults ages 15-39.
Because of the aggressive nature of the disease, the clinicians at the William Rhodes and Louisa Tilzer-Rhodes Center for Glioblastoma at NewYork-Presbyterian take an equally aggressive multipronged approach to treatment. Our multidisciplinary team provides research-driven care, including precision medicine, which allows our doctors to select treatments for each patient based on their genetic understanding of the disease. Working closely with the neuro-oncology researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medicine, we are able to offer patients promising new therapies.
Experts in Diagnosing Glioblastoma
A diagnosis of glioblastoma is usually confirmed based on several tests. Our neurologists will perform a neurological exam — gathering information about symptoms, medical history, and testing neurological function. Additionally, we conduct imaging tests to get an in-depth picture of the brain. If the images show abnormal growth in the brain, we can perform a biopsy to determine if the growth is cancerous. Our team of neuropathologists, pathologists with special expertise in the pathology of the brain, spinal cord, muscle, and nerve tissue.
Glioblastoma treatment often involves a combination of therapies. Each week, we host a cross-campus tumor board — a meeting in which a multidisciplinary team of clinicians discuss cases and share knowledge — to review each patient’s case and determine if different glioblastoma treatment options should be considered. Based on the size, stage, cell type, and positioning of the tumor, each patient receives a tailored glioblastoma treatment. As the treatment progresses, the plan is often evaluated for efficacy.