What Is Childhood Gliomatosis Cerebri?
Gliomatosis cerebri is a highly aggressive brain tumor. It is an astrocytoma, which is a sub-type of glioma. A glioma is a brain tumor that originates from glial cells that support and nourish neurons in the brain.
- Characteristics of childhood gliomatosis cerebri include scattered and widespread tumor cells that cause multiple parts of the brain to enlarge.
- Because this type of tumor is so diffuse, it can be challenging to treat, and the prognosis is generally poor. These tumors usually progress like a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) (the most malignant form of brain tumor), aggressively invading normal brain tissue.
At Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, your child receives top-notch care from a dedicated team of neuro-oncologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons. They come together in the Childhood Glioma Program, part of our Brain Tumor Center, to determine the best, individualized treatment plan for each child.
Symptoms of Childhood Gliomatosis Cerebri
Gliomatosis cerebri symptoms may develop slowly and subtly, or they may appear more abruptly. Common symptoms include:
- Signs of increased pressure within the brain, such as headache (generally upon awakening), vomiting, and seizures.
- Localized symptoms, including weakness or other motor dysfunction and neuroendocrine abnormalities (changes in hormones that affect the nervous system).
- Changes in behavior or thought processes.
Gliomatosis cerebri symptoms may resemble those of other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
How We Diagnose Childhood Gliomatosis Cerebri
Doctors typically diagnosis gliomatosis cerebri with advanced imaging studies. We don’t often perform biopsies because usually, the tumor has no primary location and grows aggressively. The combination makes biopsies risky. We may perform a biopsy if there is a primary mass or your child’s symptoms and other tests do not seem typical for the condition.
After we complete all tests and review the results, your doctor will outline the most effective treatment options for your child.
How We Treat Childhood Gliomatosis Cerebri
Glioblastoma cerebri treatment may include:
- Radiation therapy: Radiation uses high-energy waves from a specialized machine to damage or shrink tumors. It is the primary treatment we use for children with gliomatosis cerebri.
- Experimental chemotherapy: Researchers are investigating the effectiveness of chemotherapy delivered in combination with radiation therapy.
Surgery isn’t an option because of the disease’s characteristics.
Ongoing care and support are also available through our extensive pediatric cancer survivorship programs, including the Stop & Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic for pediatric brain tumor survivors, which provides access to same-day follow-up visits with your child’s care team and access to support specialists, including speech, physical, occupational, and integrative therapy specialists.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for children with gliomatosis cerebri is poor. Our Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) offers supportive treatments that help children’s quality of life and promote comfort and healing.