World Brain Tumour Day: Trends and advances to treat aggressive brain cancer

June 05, 2017

This World Brain Tumour Day, let's know about brain cancer and know the latest treatment options available to treat the cancer.

Brain tumours have continued to be a cause for concern, especially aggressive grade III and IV tumours, which are highly malignant. This has largely been due to low survival rates of the patients, with only a small fraction of patients successfully surviving the regular five-year period from diagnosis to treatment. In the wake of the 21st century, oncologists and researchers have made huge strides in the field of studying aggressive brain cancers which has helped patients understand their nature better and how to treat them. Dr Sunil Furtado, Senior Consultant, Neurosurgery, Cytecare Hospitals sheds light on the latest treatment options for brain tumour.

Understanding Aggressive Brain Tumours

Among the tumours which have been classified as aggressive, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and deadliest of malignant tumours in adults and has been labelled as a Grade IV astrocytoma. GBM stems from a lineage of star-shaped glial cells which support nerve cells. Among the highly active GBM are astrocytomas (a type of cancer of the brain), which make up for 50 percent of all brain tumours that primarily originate in the brain. Oligodendrogliomas are similar to astrocytomas and depending on their growth rate; the lower grade tumours are treatable.

Brain tumour – latest advances in the treatment

Until recently, brain tumours were treated using traditional methods of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Today, some of the newer, more revolutionary methods of diagnosis and treatment have made it possible to remove the tumour and prolong the life span of the cancer patient.

Imaging methods: It has advanced to include magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) which uses a specially processed map of important chemicals involved in brain tumours. Magnetic resonance tractography helps identify nerve pathways close to the tumour. Here are 4 things your neurologist wants you to know about brain tumour.

Surgery with neuronavigation: Surgery is supported with the help of computers which guide the operating surgeon to navigate through safe corridors within the brain (neuronavigation). Highly focused operative microscopes can define in real-time the extent of tumour removal during surgery, with the injection of special dye chemical through a vein.

Drug delivery: In the case of chemotherapy, convection-enhanced delivery is being experimented with, which can allow a small tube to be placed in the tumour. This can be achieved by creating a small hole in the skull, further fitted with an infusion pump, through which drugs will be administered. Drugs embedded in thin dissolving wafers can be placed in the tumour cavity at the end of surgery, to dissolve and destroy tumour cells.

Vaccines: Other treatment methods which are actively explored are tumour vaccines which stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the brain tumour. Other types of vaccines include angiogenesis inhibitors, which attack blood vessels created by tumours and prevent them from being nourished.

A large factor which contributes to the treatment of tumours is their growth rate, which is responsible for tumour cell multiplication. While newer drugs are targeting this, researchers have found that with these methods of treating aggressive brain tumours, they will go a long way in prolonging a patient’s life with a hope of bringing down the mortality rates due to brain cancers. Also read about top 10 myths and facts about brain tumour.