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About the Glioma Program

The Glioma Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is one of the world’s largest pediatric glioma treatment programs. Ongoing research on the genetic and molecular causes of pediatric gliomas is transferred to the bedside, where some of the world’s most most experienced pediatric brain tumor specialists and pediatric subspecialists use sophisticated technology and therapies to maximize outcomes for our patients.

It's important to get a quick and accurate diagnosis of a pediatric glioma so that appropriate treatment can begin as soon as possible. Our pediatric neurologists, neuro-oncologists, and neurosurgeons perform a comprehensive medical history and neurological exam before a cancer diagnosis is made, and our dedicated pediatric neuropathologists examine biopsied brain tissue to aid in diagnosis and confirmation of tumor type. Our glioma specialists also have direct access to New England’s only pediatric PET scan and PET fusion imaging, which provide precise anatomical images that guide our physicians’ treatment decisions.

Our approach to gliomas

Initially, low-grade gliomas are treated with neurosurgery and monitored for regrowth. If surgical removal is not an option due to the tumor’s location or if the tumor begins to grow back after its removal, our doctors may recommend chemotherapy or biologic therapy. Radiation therapy is rarely used to treat these tumors because of the high risk of adverse side effects and the overall excellent prognosis without radiation.

Most high-grade gliomas need to undergo maximal surgical resection. Technologies like intra-operative MRI allow our surgeons to visualize the tumor as they operate, enhancing their ability to successfully remove the tumor without damaging critical parts of the brain. Following surgery, precisely targeted doses of radiation therapy are delivered to kill cancer cells left behind.

At the core of the treatment team is a neuro-oncologist with expertise in treating gliomas. Many of our brain tumor specialists are also active researchers, so our patients have access to the very best and up-to-date treatments available. From there, we build a team that is best suited to carry out the patient’s treatment plan, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and radiologists. We round out the team with experts that help the child prepare for life during and after treatment, including psychiatrists and psychologists, child life specialists, social workers, nutritionists, and school specialists.

Our glioma expertise

Dana-Farber/Boston Children's patients have access to the broadest set of pediatric and oncologic expertise available. The breadth of our expertise allows us to assemble a team of experts to meet the specific needs of the patient.

Glioma research and clinical trials

Our clinical research program offers children with hard-to-treat gliomas unique access to clinical trials. We are consistently one of the most highly funded pediatric brain tumor centers in the United States. A major focus of our research program is the rapid translation of scientific discoveries to the bedside to benefit patients. Through this research, our physicians work to improve therapeutic approaches and outcomes for hard-to-treat brain tumors.

Dana-Farber is home to the Pediatric Low-Grade Astrocytoma (PLGA) Program, established by the PLGA Foundation in 2007. The PLGA Program is the only dedicated pediatric low-grade glioma research program in America, and since has grown into a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional program, with collaborations initiated internally at Dana-Farber, nationally with other institutions in America, and internationally in Europe.