Glioblastoma Multiforme and Anaplastic Astrocytomas

These high-grade gliomas originate from the supportive tissue of the brain (glial cells). There are several types of these tumors, including astrocytomas. These tumors are classified into four grades that reflect their degree of severity. The highest grade is the most malignant (cancerous) and fast-growing. They can arise at any age, but are more common in adult patients.

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Meet Our Brain Tumor Care Team

Meet Our Brain Tumor Care Team

Meet the specialists at the Gerald J. Glasser Brain Tumor Center who are experts in treating glioblastoma multiforme and other high-grade gliomas.

Meet the Team

Astrocytomas are a form of glioma named after astrocytes, the star-shaped glial cells which support and regulate electrical impulses in the brain. They are widely distributed throughout the brain and spinal cord. Anaplastic Astrocytomas are high-grade (grades III and IV), malignant gliomas that are some of the most common primary brain tumors in adults. Learn about low-grade astrocytomas

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) are the most aggressive type of astrocytoma and highest-grade (grade IV) glioma. The most common primary brain tumor in adults, they usually arise sporadically but can also develop from lower grade gliomas. These tumors are invasive and commonly spread throughout the brain.


Glioblastomas and anaplastic astrocytomas may become large before they begin to cause noticeable symptoms, which can include:

  • Headaches 
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss 
  • Vision loss            
  • Language impairments
  • Changes in personality
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs


High-grade gliomas are diagnosed through a neurological examination followed by a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain. MRI scans are usually performed with contrast dye to help identify the tumor’s size, location and type.

An exact diagnosis can only be confirmed following a stereotactic biopsy or surgical removal of the tumor. Tissue analysis by a neuropathologist defines the diagnosis and genetic profile of the tumor.


Treatment for a high-grade glioma typically starts with surgery to remove the tumor. We use the latest techniques to make craniotomy (surgical opening of the skull) as safe and effective as possible. These techniques include:

Alternatively, laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) may be used as a minimally invasive surgical alternative to open craniotomy.  Or, a biopsy could be performed in patients with medical conditions that don't allow for surgery – or when there are concerns about the location of the tumor.

Additional treatment is needed after surgery because glioblastoma multiforme and anaplastic astrocytoma cells typically grow into the surrounding brain tissue. The next steps are determined by the exact tumor type and grade, a molecular analysis of the tumor and the extent of your removal surgery. Insights from our genetic and molecular analysis of your tumor can help predict how effective chemotherapy and other treatments will be.

Members of our multidisciplinary tumor board will work together to recommend the best personalized and targeted treatment options incorporating the latest molecular diagnostics, treatment protocols and participation in national clinical trials.

Follow-up treatments could include:

Our team will closely monitor you and personalize your follow-up care. Our patient navigator will also connect you with our support group and other resources. Learn more


New therapies to fight gliomas – such as immunotherapy, vaccine therapy, gene therapy and new chemotherapies – are being researched and gene expression profiling is being used to evaluate the efficacy of targeted molecular drugs. 

In addition, molecular markers are increasingly being used to support the diagnosis of gliomas. For example, somebody's genetic makeup can predict their response to certain chemotherapies or drugs.

Clinical Trials

For Newly-Diagnosed Patients

Immunotherapy and Radiation Therapy for Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma

Designed for patients who are newly diagnosed with MGMT-unmethylated glioblastoma, this phase II/III study tests the use of immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab – which may help the body’s immune system attack cancer cells – with radiation therapy. Learn more about this trial

For Newly-Diagnosed Patients

Adding SurVaxM Vaccine Therapy to Standard of Care Chemotherapy

Patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma may be eligible to participate in this phase II study examining the use of standard of care temozolomide chemotherapy combined with SurVaxM – an immunotherapeutic vaccine – compared to temozolomide alone. Learn more about this trial

For Patients With Recurrent Glioblastoma

Immunotherapy for Recurrent Glioblastoma

This phase II study examines immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab in patients with glioblastoma that has recurred and carries a high number of mutations. These immunotherapy medications with monoclonal antibodies may help the body's immune system attack cancerous cells and may interfere with tumor cells’ ability to grow and spread. Learn more about this trial

For Patients With Recurrent Glioblastoma

Chemotherapy Drug Berubicin for Recurrent Glioblastoma

This phase II study further evaluates the use of investigational chemotherapy drug berubicin in patients with recurrent glioblastoma whose standard first line therapy was unsuccessful. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted berubicin Fast Track designation in July 2021. Learn more about this trial