Mayo Clinic neuro-oncologist Wendy J. Sherman, M.D., discusses glioblastoma, a malignant brain and spinal cord tumor. Dr. Sherman talks about the variety of symptoms that may be experienced, the different treatment options and what it means to have an experienced care team partnering with each person. She discusses the importance of targeting therapy and individualizing care plans for each patient.
glioblastoma is the most common malignant tumor of the brain. But in comparison to other cancers that are out there, it's pretty rare. I think it's estimated that three out of every 100,000 people are diagnosed with it in the United States each year. Usually the symptoms are related to the location in the brain where the tumor is located. So if the tumor is located in the part of the brain that controls your language, then you might have trouble reading, writing, speaking headache as the only presenting signs of a tumor, especially a glioblastoma is exceptionally rare. The way to diagnose it is with an MRI of the brain with and without the contrast dye, we're doing a lot of research looking at, you know, are there markers in the blood? Are their markers in the urine, spinal fluid, where can we find some indication that this could be starting to happen in the body? But right now there's no, there's no screening test for this is the first step is what we call maximally safe resection, meaning you take out as much as you can of the tumor safely. That reduces the pressure, can improve symptoms and also establishes a diagnosis tells us for sure. Yes, this is a glioblastoma standard of care is a combination of radiation and chemotherapy and the radiation is delivered to where the tumor was. It's not the whole brain to a limited area. And then once radiation is over, people are maintained on the chemo pill. And then there's also a device that you wear on your head. It's called tumor treating fields it's alternating electric fields and the way it works is it affects how cancer cells are dividing. So essentially it pulls them apart and they divide incorrectly and the cancer cells recognize that they divided incorrectly and then they undergo what's called apoptosis or they kill themselves. People tend to live between a year and a half and two years with this. On average, between five and 10% of people are alive at five years. We want our patients to live and we want to be able to cure this and that's what a lot of our research is going toward at this time. Once you've had a brain tumor and you've had surgery in the brain radiation to the brain, it affects you in a different way than cancer and the rest of the body. People's personalities can be different. That survivorship is different in that you may not be the same person you were at the beginning of this, there's a lot of services to help people adapt to what we call the new normal. We have a lot of where we'll meet people initially, they get the treatment locally and then they see us with each MRI and they just have the MRI sent to us and we do a video visit, show them the MRI and say, yeah, you're on track things are working to keep going or no, we need to change gears. We have so many trials that are in various stages of opening. but on the website you'll be able to see all the different trials and it will tell you, is it open at Jacksonville, Rochester, Arizona all three, and then there is a number on that web page two and if you call, you'll be set up with um the research coordinator and they can talk to you as well and say, yeah, we have this trial, it's open or you know, we might have some other trials we could consider you for and that can help get people in as well. We're redesigning our trials now. So you learn as you go, if you learn as you go that it's not helpful, well you can stop and switch and then you're not exposing people to treatment that's not going to help them. So I'm excited about how we're designing them and what we're testing as well. We're coming together as a community to treat this, we're getting more patients on trial were being smarter about our trials, I think it's exciting time for our field and I'm very hopeful that we're going to make progress on this