Gliomatosis cerebri is an aggressive brain cancer that can strike at any age, but is mostly diagnosed in children, adolescents and young adults. Gliomatosis cerebri is not a “lump” like many tumors, but rather consists of cancerous threads that spread quickly and infiltrate deep into surrounding brain tissue. That makes the cancer inoperable as well as difficult if not impossible to treat with radiation. Gliomatosis cerebri is extremely rare, with fewer than 100 cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
Gliomatosis cerebri is a kind of glioma, meaning that it originates in the glial (connective) cells of the brain. It is an astrocytoma, which is the most common kind of glioma. Since glial cells are found throughout the brain and spine, these tumors can occur in a wide variety of locations throughout the central nervous system. Gliomatosis cerebri occurs most often in the frontal lobes of the cerebral hemispheres and by definition occurs in several lobes simultaneously.
Scientists do not yet understand what causes gliomatosis cerebri, and the cancer is so rare that it hasn’t received nearly enough research funding to find a cause, a cure or even better treatment options. Survival rates have not improved much over the last few decades due to this lack of new research. Because of this, gliomatosis cerebri was chosen as one of the rare and inoperable pediatric brain tumors now being studied in the Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain and Spine Center’s Children’s Brain Tumor Project.