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Malignant gliomas are the most common primary malignant brain tumors, with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) associated with the worst prognosis. Although GBM is a rare tumor with an incidence of less than 10 per 100,000 people, it is still a deadly disease. Worldwide, malignant gliomas cause 238,000 new brain tumors and 174,000 deaths annually.1 Patients typically have a median survival of approximately 15 months from diagnosis.2,3

Visualization of malignant gliomas

Over the past decade, a number of different treatments have been studied with very limited success. Surgery is the main component of standard care.3 The extent of GBM resection depends on the location and eloquent regions of the affected brain area. Tumors occurring in sites such as the eloquent cortex, brainstem, or basal ganglia are not amenable to surgical intervention, and these patients typically have a worse prognosis. Surgical success is limited because of the invasive growth of GBM and the difficulty of resection with an adequate margin of safety.5 Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have limited efficacy because of early resistance and accumulation of side effects.

GBM remains incurable due to its heterogeneity and complex pathogenesis. Further research efforts in the future will help to improve treatment options in the fight against the disease.

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  1. Ferlay J et al. Estimates of worldwide burden of cancer in 2008: GLOBOCAN 2008. Int J Cancer 2010;127(12):2893-2917.
  2. Stupp R et al. Effects of radiotherapy with concomitant and adjuvant temozolomide versus radiotherapy alone on survival in glioblastoma in a randomised phase III study: 5-year analysis of the EORTC-NCIC trial. Lancet Oncol 2009;10(5):459-466.
  3. Weller M et al. EANO guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of anaplastic gliomas and glioblastoma. Lancet Oncol 2014;15(9): e395-e403.
  4. Ohka F et al. Current trends in targeted therapies for glioblastoma multiforme. Neurol Res Int, 2012, 878425.
  5. Claes A et al. Diffuse glioma growth: A guerilla war. Acta Neuropathol 2007;114(5):443-458.