Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)- a common brain tumor

GBM

Introduction

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor. It arises from the glial cells (supporting cells of the nervous system). These tumors have the property to grow, spread quickly and surrounds the brain tissue. It is a kind of brain cancer that usually starts in the largest part of the brain that is cerebrum. It may grow rapidly and eventually, can cause a life-threatening condition. Usually, it does not spread outside the Central Nervous System. Although, in extremely rare cases it can happen.

What are glial cells?

These are the supportive cells which are present in CNS. They do not conduct electrical signals like neurons. In fact, these cells surround the neurons and provide support to them. Glial cells are located between the neurons and support them to perform their activity properly. They work as an insulation between them.

Types of glial cells

There are various types of glial cells found inside the nervous system. Some of them are- Oligodendrocytes, Astrocytes, Microglial cells, Schwann cells, Ependymal cells and satellite cells. Out of all these cells, astrocytes are responsible for causing Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). It mainly composed of star-shaped glial cells known as astrocytes.

Symptoms of GBM

The symptoms of GBM may vary depending upon the size and exact location of the tumor. However, the common symptoms are- Headache, change in personality or mental status, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness (the state between sleeping and being awake), vision problem, aphasia (a condition in which a person is unable to memorize the previously acquired speech) and weakness of arms and legs.

What are the causes of GBM?

The exact cause of GBM is unknown. But researchers suggest that some of the factors may contribute to its development.  However, factors like environmental factors (exposure to radiation), immunological abnormalities and genetic factors may play a vital role in developing such a condition. In fact, the recent research studies suggest that abnormalities of DNA may result in the uncontrolled growth of cells. These tumors make their own blood supply which promotes their growth.

What happened during the GBM?

GBM is a most common primary brain tumor. A tumor means swelling of a part caused by an uncontrolled growth of the cell. As mentioned earlier, the tumor makes their own blood supply which helps them to grow. Let us have a look at the mechanism by which a tumor matures.

Mechanism

Actually, a tumor needs oxygen and nutrients for its growth and development. These things are widely available in the blood. Therefore, tumor sends the chemical signals which stimulate the growth of blood vessel. These blood vessels transport blood to a tumor and hence, the tumor matures. The process of tumor maturation is simplified by the process of angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis

Basically, angiogenesis is a process of formation of new blood vessels from the existing one. This process plays a crucial role in the development of the tumor. As this process helps in the formation of blood vessels which are used by a tumor to get the nourishment of nutrients and oxygen. Therefore, angiogenesis has a significant role in the development of a tumor.

Regulation of angiogenesis

In fact, this angiogenesis process is also regulated by one another pathway which is known as the VEGF pathway. VEGF stands for Vascular Endothelium Growth Factor pathway. It is a kind of signal protein which a cell produces to stimulate the formation of blood vessels. As its name suggests, it stimulates the growth of vascular endothelial cells. Due to its function of regulating the process of angiogenesis, it is known as the regulator of angiogenesis.

Sometimes, VEGF starts overexpressing its function. This can promote the process of angiogenesis. Due to the speedy formation of new blood vessels, cells got enough oxygen and nutrients. Cells start developing and maturing. This generates a condition in which cells start accumulating on one another and hence, lead to the formation of a tumor. A tumor gets enough supply of oxygen and nutrients from new blood vessels which promotes their growth and development and hence, give birth to various diseases.

Treatments available for GBM

As it is a life-threatening condition, therefore, it is very necessary to treat this condition in the early stages. If remain untreated, it can lead to death. Below mentioned are some treatment options available for treating GBM.

1. Surgery

It is the most common treatment adopted by the doctors to treat such conditions. In this treatment, a surgeon tries to remove the part of a tumor as much as possible. Surgery is a highly complicated treatment and needs an expert’s supervision. It can be a highly risky treatment for a patient. The brain is a very delicate part of the human body. Many times, it is difficult for a surgeon to remove a tumor from a highly delicate part. In fact, in severe cases, it is not possible to remove all the part of a tumor.

 2. Medications- Chemotherapy

It is the most recommended treatment. In this treatment, doctors prescribe certain drugs to the patient suffering from GBM. These drugs enter the blood-stream and reach in every part of the body. It is a most common treatment. This treatment has the lesser complication than surgery. Therefore, it is widely used. They may have some side effects but they are less toxic. Temozolomide is the most common drug prescribed by the doctors for treating brain tumors.

3. Radiation Therapy

It is one another way to treat the condition of GBM. This treatment can be used even after surgery. In this method, tumor cells are exposed to the invisible, high energy beams of the charged particle in order to destroy them. It can cause a possible damage to the normal cells surrounding the tumor. Not only this but it can also slow the growth of tumors that cannot be removed by surgery. Common side effects are- fatigue, hair loss and skin irritation.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248049/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glioblastoma/cdc-20350148

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/glioblastoma-multiforme/

https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/understanding-brain-tumours/types-of-brain-tumour-adult/glioblastoma/

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