Pediatric Anaplastic Astrocytoma

Pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma is a malignant brain tumor that usually occurs in older children. Children’s Health℠ offers care from physicians at the UT Southwestern Pediatric Group, who are among the world’s top pediatric cancer experts. We have helped many children overcome anaplastic astrocytoma and get back to normal life.

What is pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma?

Anaplastic astrocytomas start in astrocytes, brain cells that help your central nervous system do tasks like store energy and support neurons. Anaplastic astrocytomas are part of a group of tumors called high-grade gliomas. High-grade gliomas typically grow and spread faster than other types of brain tumors. These tumors can affect kids of any age but are most common in kids between eight and 18.

What are the signs and symptoms of pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma?

The usual symptoms of a child with an anaplastic astrocytoma include progressively worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures and personality changes.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Speech problems
  • Memory problems

How is pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma diagnosed?

First, your child will have an MRI. This test takes detailed pictures of your child’s brain and helps us figure out what’s causing their symptoms. MRI’s show us if your child has a tumor, and if so, where it is located and how big it is.

If we find a tumor, we’ll take a sample of it called a biopsy. Biopsies allow us to see what type of tumor your child has and whether or not it is cancerous.

We also use a tool called next-generation sequencing for many of our patients. This allows us to examine the tumor’s DNA. Some tumors’ DNA can be targeted with certain types of drugs, so knowing the exact genetic makeup of your child’s tumor helps us choose the best treatment.

What causes pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma?

We don't know why children get anaplastic astrocytoma. Scientists have found some correlations between certain genes and these tumors, but they’re still doing research to learn more.

How is pediatric anaplastic astrocytoma treated?

Treatment of anaplastic astrocytoma requires complex combinations of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery – Our team of neurosurgeons works together to plan each child’s surgery. They use the most advanced imaging tools to find out exactly where the tumor is and plan the best way to remove it. There are two goals of surgery:
    • Remove as much tumor as is safely possible
    • Get tissue to accurately make a diagnosis
  • Radiation – Using high-energy rays to target brain tumors. Our doctors use many different types of radiation and will work together to pick the best option for your child. We often use proton therapy, a very precise type of radiation that targets tumors and doesn’t harm surrounding tissues. We may also use stereotactic radiosurgery. With it we can pinpoint the exact right spot to give radiation and use higher doses and fewer treatments.
  • Chemotherapy – A family of medicines that shrink and kill tumors. Children’s Health is home to a team that specializes in using chemotherapy to treat brain tumors in kids. They’ve helped many kids like yours beat brain tumors and work to make sure treatments have as few side effects as possible.

Pediatric Anaplastic Astrocytoma Doctors and Providers

Children’s Health offers care from physicians who are on the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center. We bring together neurosurgeons, radiologists, oncologists and many more team members with one goal: helping your child beat cancer. Learn more about our team.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do anaplastic astrocytomas always come back?

    Anaplastic astrocytomas can come back after treatment, but we do everything we can to keep that from happening. We use an intensive combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

    For example, we often use radiation after surgery to destroy any microscopic fragments of tumor left behind. Using specialized chemotherapy drugs that target a tumor’s DNA can also help us kill tumors at their source and keep them from coming back.

  • How common is anaplastic astrocytoma?

    Brain tumors are among the most common childhood cancers. High-grade gliomas like anaplastic astrocytoma make up about 10% of childhood brain tumors.

  • Is anaplastic astrocytoma hereditary?

    Sometimes, there is a family history of anaplastic astrocytoma. Some studies have found a loose connection between certain genes and these types of tumors, but scientists are still learning more about this.