Pediatric Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma is a malignant brain tumor that usually occurs in older children. Treatment of glioblastoma requires complex combinations of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, so it's very important to see a specialist with experience in this type of cancer. Children’s Health offers care from physicians at the UT Southwestern Pediatric Group, who are among the world’s top pediatric cancer experts.

What is Pediatric Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is believed to 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 8 and 18. Each year, around 500 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with glioblastoma.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Glioblastoma?

A glioblastoma tumor can push against the brain, causing symptoms such as:

  • Changes in vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems with speech
  • Seizures
  • Weakness on one side of the body

How is Pediatric Glioblastoma 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 Glioblastoma?

The exact cause of these tumors is not known. Some children with glioblastomas have a “genetic predisposition,” which means their genes put them at higher risk of developing this cancer and related cancers.

How is Pediatric Glioblastoma treated?

  • 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. They work together to create a plan to remove as much of the tumor as possible without harming the healthy tissue around it. There are two goals of surgery:
    • Remove as much of the 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, where 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 Glioblastoma Doctors and Providers

We have a team of doctors and other specialists who focus specifically on brain tumors. Our doctors are also faculty members at UT Southwestern, which means they have received expert training and have access to the latest treatments and clinical trials. Our experience and teamwork help us act quickly to fight your child’s cancer and reduce their pain and symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are glioblastomas curable?

    Some glioblastomas are curable, but many are not. At Children’s Health, we have helped children with glioblastomas overcome the cancer and survive long-term.