What is an anaplastic astrocytoma?
Astrocytomas are a type of brain tumor that arises from brain cells called astrocytes. An anaplastic astrocytoma is both a type of astroctyoma and a high-grade glioma. Anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) are high-grade gliomas and account for approximately 10 percent of childhood brain tumors.
Children in families with neurofibromatosis type I, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and tuberous sclerosis are at higher risk of anaplastic astrocytoma. Approximately 65 percent of anaplastic astrocytoma tumors arise in the cerebral hemispheres, the top part of the brain. About 20 percent occur in the area of the thalamus and hypothalamus or the diencephalon, the area responsible for identification of sensation, such as temperature, pain and touch, regulation of appetite/weight and body temperature, as well as connecting the brainstem to the cortex. Another 15 percent can occur in the region of the cerebellum and brain stem known as the posterior fossa.
The median age at diagnosis of anaplastic astrocytoma is 9 to 10 years old.
How we care for anaplastic astrocytoma
Children with anaplastic astrocytoma are treated at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program, one of the world's largest treatment programs focused on pediatric gliomas. Our specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of gliomas, including anaplastic astrocytoma. Our patients receive multidisciplinary care from neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.
Our areas of research for anaplastic astrocytoma
Clinical and basic scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are conducting numerous research studies to help clinicians better understand and treat malignant gliomas. Through the consortia of researchers to which we belong, a number of novel therapies are available for children with both newly diagnosed and current brain tumors.
Anaplastic Astrocytomas | Symptoms & Causes
What are the symptoms of anaplastic astrocytoma?
Symptoms depend on the type of white blood cell disorder a child has. Common symptoms when white blood cells are too few or don’t function properly include:
- frequent infections, most often in the lungs, ears or sinuses
- skin abscesses
- mouth sores
- invasive fungal infections
- severe tooth and gum (periodontal) disease
Certain conditions can have unique symptoms, such as:
- delayed wound healing in leukocyte adhesion deficiency
- chronic, sometimes greasy diarrhea in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
What causes anaplastic astrocytoma?
Most anaplastic astrocytomas and high-grade gliomas occur sporadically or without identifiable cause. They do, however, occur with increased frequency in families with the following conditions.
- neurofibromatosis type I
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
- tuberous sclerosis
Anaplastic astrocytomas have also been associated with exposure to vinyl chloride and to high doses of radiation therapy to the brain.
Anaplastic Astrocytomas | Diagnosis & Treatments
How are anaplastic astrocytoma diagnosed?
Anaplastic astrocytomas are diagnosed using a combination of tests including:
- physical examination
- computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)