Gliomas are tumors that arise in the brain from glial cells. There are three subtypes of glial cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells. Brain tumor doctors therefore recognize several types of Gliomas:

1. Astrocytoma: Gliomas that arise from astrocytes
2. Oligodendroglioma: Gliomas that arise from oligodendrocytes
3. Mixed Gliomas: Also called oligoastrocytoma due to their mixed appearance
4. Ependymoma: Gliomas that arise from ependymal cells.

There is no such thing as “routine” gliomas. Every patient’s glioma is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving each person’s specific cancer.

At the OSUCCC – James, our glioma specialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on these tumors  and who reach across medical disciplines (neurooncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, pharmacists, nurse specialists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Facts About Gliomas

There are different types of brain tumors; some begin in the brain, while others spread to the brain from other parts of the body. Glioma refers to brain tumors that begin in the brain – also known as primary brain tumors.

About 30 percent of brain tumors begin in glial cells and are collectively named gliomas. Glioma (formerly referred to as Glioblastoma multiforme), is one type of gliomas.

Gliomas come in four grades:

Grade I gliomas often occur in children and can often be removed with surgery. If removed completely, such tumors can be cured. An example of a Grade I glioma is a pilocytic astrocytoma.

Grade II gliomas are slow growing. Examples of Grade II gliomas are astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma and ependymoma. Although often referred to as benign Grade II gliomas can cause such as seizures and headaches. These tumors can also transform to a higher grade over time and start growing more rapidly.

Malignant gliomas grow more quickly are are graded as Grade III or Grade IV. Examples of Grade III gliomas are anaplastic astrocytoma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and anaplastic ependymoma. The most common type of Grade IV glioma is glioblastoma.

The most important difference between grade I gliomas and all other glioma grades is that these gliomas are circumscribed and do not invade the surrounding normal brain. Grade II, II and IV tumors tend to be highly invasive and there cannot be cured with surgery alone.

Types of Gliomas


Astrocytomas are tumors that begin in specialized glial cells called astrocytes, named for their star-like shape. These cancers can be difficult to treat because of their tendency to spread into other normal brain tissue. Astrocytomas are classified as high (Grade IV or glioblastoma), intermediate (Grade III or anaplastic astrocytoma) or low grade (Grade II or low grade astrocytoma) based on how they look under the microscope.

The most common type of astrocytoma is glioblastoma, which is  fast growing, high grade and the most difficult to treat.


Oligodendrogliomas are tumors that begin in oligodendrocytes — specialized cells that make the fatty substance that protects the nerves in the brain and the central nervous system. Oligodendrogliomas are classified as high (Grade III or anaplastic oligodendroglioma) or low grade (Grade II or low grade oligodendroglioma). These are rare tumors and often respond better to treatment than astrocytoma.


Tumors that begin in specialized cells (ependymal cells) that line the fluid filled chambers of the brain called ventricles are called ependymomas. Sometimes these tumors can grow large and block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from exiting the ventricles. This may cause hydrocephalus, a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. Ependymomas are classified as high (Grade III or anaplastic ependymoma) or low grade (Grade II or ependymoma) or as a special type called myxopapillary ependymoma which occurs in the spinal cord

Mixed Gliomas

When a tumor contains more than one cell type, it is referred to as a mixed glioma. For example, oligoastrocytomas have some of the same types of cells as both oligodendrogliomas and astrocytomas. Treatment is similar to that of astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma.

Brain Anatomy

The brain has four major parts:


This is the largest part of the brain and is located at upper part of the head. This part of the brain controls the several functions of the brain including executive functions such thinking, learning and problem solving, speech and language functions, movement and sensations as well as vision and hearing.


This part of the brain controls fine-tuning of movements including all limb movements, balance and posture. It is located near the lower part of the back of the head.

Brain Stem

This part of the brain is what connects the brain to the spinal cord. It controls involuntary actions such as breathing and heart rate. It also controls the nerves and muscles needed to carry out daily functions such as eating, talking and eye movements.


There are four ventricles in the human brain: two lateral, one near the center and one near the hindbrain that connects the spinal cord. They are filled with cerebrospinal fluid and deliver nutrients to the brain and protect and cushion brain tissue.



Glioma Symptoms

The symptoms caused by a primary brain tumor depend on where the tumor begins in the brain and what that part of the brain controls.

Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vision, hearing and speech problems
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking
  • Weakness
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level
  • Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus or behavior
  • Seizures

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a gliomas. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if they have continued for longer than a few weeks.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you have received a glioma diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a brain cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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