GLIOBLASTOMA MULTIFORME (GBM) IS AN AGGRESSIVE MALIGNANT BRAIN TUMOR INVOLVING GLIAL CELLS OF THE BRAIN. The prognosis for GBM patients is very poor, with a median survival time of approximately 14.6 months. There are quite a few areas of promising clinical research that could serve as the tipping point toward extending survival in GBM patients and potentially pave the way to a cure. Medical philanthropy plays an increasingly important role in accelerating the translation of high-impact research into accessible medical solutions.

 

GBM accounts for nearly 50% of all gliomas and approximately 15 percent of all brain tumors. Nearly 15,000 people are diagnosed with GBM each year in the United States and Europe. GBM preferentially affects adults ages 45-65, and is more common in men than women.

GBM is an aggressive malignant brain tumor involving glial cells of the brain. Glial cells – the most abundant cells within the central nervous system – provide support and protection for neurons throughout the central nervous system, including the brain. Glial tumors (also referred to as gliomas or astrocytomas) arise when glial cells become malignant and grow rampantly. These tumors are categorized using a scale of I to IV to describe the degree of abnormality of glial cells within the tumor, and a high to low grade system to describe growth rate of the tumor. GBM is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a grade IV astrocytoma – the highest grade and most malignant form of all gliomas. 

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, GBM accounts for nearly 50 percent of all gliomas and approximately 15 percent of all brain tumors. Throughout the United States and Europe, the incidence of GBM is approximately two to three new cases per 100,000 people per year, giving rise to nearly 14,000 new cases of GBM each year. GBM preferentially affects adults ages 45-65, and is more common in men than women. 

The prognosis for GBM patients is very poor, with a median survival time of approximately 14.6 months. Less than 30 percent of patients survive two years after diagnosis, and less than 10 percent survive beyond five years after diagnosis. 

GBM is generally treated by first surgically removing the tumor then treating with chemotherapy (Merck’s Temodar) and radiation. While this treatment plan is the currently accepted standard of care, it does not effectively prevent tumor recurrence, which ultimately causes death in GBM patients. 

Additional treatments are in clinical development for GBM. Most recently, Genentech’s Avastin was approved for the treatment of recurrent GBM patients. This agent has been shown to be effective in delaying tumor progression, but recent data show that it does not increase overall survival in GBM patients. This recent finding highlights the need for the development of effective treatment options that not only increase overall survival in GBM patients, but also ultimately provides these patients with the opportunity for a cure. 

There are quite a few areas of promising clinical research that could serve as the tipping point toward extending survival in GBM patients and potentially pave the way to a cure. These areas include but are not limited to translational research studies aiming to identify and inhibit aberrant molecular pathways that drive tumor resistance, recurrence, and invasion. In addition, clinical research evaluating the use of oncolytic virotherapy, immunotherapy, and combinations of these treatments with chemo- and targeted therapies are also of tremendous value. While these research areas are indeed poised to have a high impact on GBM treatment options in the near future, severe funding gaps threaten to delay acceleration of progress. As a result, medical philanthropy plays an increasingly important role in accelerating the translation of high-impact research into accessible medical solutions.