About Glioma

Gliomas are brain tumors that arise when glial cells — cells that normally support brain cells — become defective.

There are three subtypes of glial cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells, so the OSUCCC – James brain tumor subspecialists recognize several types of gliomas:

1. Astrocytoma: Gliomas that arise from astrocytes

2. Oligodendroglioma: Gliomas that arise from oligodendrocytes

3. Mixed Glioma: Also called oligoastrocytoma due to their mixed appearance

4. Ependymoma: Gliomas that arise from ependymal cells.

There is no such thing as a routine glioma. Every patient’s glioma is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving that specific cancer.

At the OSUCCC – James, our glioma subspecialists 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 subspecialists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

In fact, our unique Multidisciplinary Brain Cancer Clinic offers all newly diagnosed glioma patients an on-site, thorough evaluation and treatment-options review with experts from neurologic radiation oncology, surgical oncology and medical oncology — all on the same day — so that together, the patient and the experts can decide on the best personalized treatment options.

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 (cells that normally support brain cells) and are collectively named gliomas. Glioblastoma (formerly referred to as Glioblastoma multiforme), is one type of glioma.

Gliomas come in four grades:

Grade I gliomas usually occur in children and can often be removed with surgery. They do not invade the surrounding, healthy brain cells. 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 found to be benign (non-cancerous), Grade II gliomas can cause such symptoms as seizures and headaches. These tumors can also transform into a higher grade over time and start growing more rapidly.

Malignant (cancerous) gliomas grow more quickly and are either Grade III or Grade IV. Examples of Grade III gliomas are anaplastic astrocytoma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and anaplastic ependymoma. The most frequently diagnosed Grade IV glioma is glioblastoma.

Grade II, III and IV tumors tend to be highly invasive and they cannot be cured with surgery alone.

Types of Gliomas


These tumors begin in specialized glial cells called astrocytes, which are named for their star-like shape. Astrocytomas can be difficult to treat because they tend to spread into other normal brain tissue. They 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 frequently diagnosed astrocytoma is glioblastoma, which is fast growing, high grade and the most difficult to treat.


These tumors 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.


A serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. These tumors begin in specialized cells (ependymal cells) which line the fluid-filled chambers of the brain, called ventricles. Sometimes these tumors can grow large and block cerebrospinal fluid from flowing out of the ventricles.

Ependymomas are classified as high (Grade III or anaplastic ependymoma) or low grade (Grade II or ependymoma). They may also be classified as myxopapillary ependymoma, which occurs in the spinal cord.

Mixed Gliomas

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

Brain Anatomy

The brain has four major parts:


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


The cerebellum, located near the lower part of the back of the head, controls fine-tuning of movements, including all limb movements, balance and posture.

Brain Stem

The brain stem 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 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 as well as protect and cushion brain tissue.



Glioma Symptoms

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

Symptoms can include:

  • 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’ve been diagnosed with a glioma, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a glioma specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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