Liam Earley and Harrison Mazur

What is Astrocytoma?

Astrocytoma is a common type of brain cancer. Astrocytes are a type of cell in the brain that act as supportive tissue- that is, they support the other brain cells by providing structure and nourishment. Astrocytoma is the name for a cancer made up of cells that were originally astrocytes.

What are the symptoms?

Astrocytoma can manifest itself in many different ways. Symptoms vary depending upon the severity and location of the tumor. Common symptoms include nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Astrocytoma can also affect the Brain's activity and result in behavioral changes and changes in personality. Astrocytoma can turn you into a different person- which is, in my opinion, one of the most frightening things about this disease.

Examples of astrocytoma

The Most Common Type of Brain Cancer

How Prevalent is it?

Astrocytoma is one of the most common types of Brain tumor. Statistics on its prevalence vary widely, but it is estimated that they make up approximately 29-30% of all brain tumors. Approximately 829.5 Americans out of every 100,000 have a threatening brain tumor. 8.2 out of every 100,000 is diagnosed every year, and 13,000 americans die every year from brain tumors. Brain cancer is slightly more common in men, with men having about 55% of cases.

How do we diagnose astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are diagnosed with both physical and and non-physical methods.

For example, the most common physical methods are:

  • Biopsy
  • Craniotomy

The most common imaging technology is:

  • MRI
  • CT Scan

What Are the Possible Causes of Astrocytoma?

Like many brain tumors, the cause of Astrocytoma is unknown. Possible causes include:

  • A change in a gene
  • Exposure to radiation
  • environmental factors

Are Treatments Really Treatments?

It has been actually proven that the radiation used to treat a tumor can actually cause secondary tumors to appear. So, are treatments really treatments?

What Happens at the Cellular and Molecular Level?

As mentioned previously, a change in genes is thought to be the main factor for causing astrocytoma. But what actually happens on a cellular and molecular level?

On the cellular level, like all cancers, astrocytoma occurs when 1 cell mutates, causing it, for some reason or another, to divide too fast. This causes a growing mass of mutated cells that are rapidly dividing. This is a tumor.

Astrocytoma has no 1 factor that causes it. However, 2 large possibilities for causes of astrocytoma are the protein SPAG9 and the p53 gene.

SPAG9 is a protein involved in the synthesis of protein. In 2013, a group of chinese researchers discovered that SPAG9 has a strong correlation with astrocytoma. SPAG9 was found in 60% of the observed tumors, while normally not being found in astrocytes. When SPAG9 was depleted in astrocytoma cells, growth was inhibited. This is fairly strong evidence for SPAG9 being related to astrocytoma.

P53 is another possible contributing factor to astrocytoma. P53 is a gene that is involved in cell division, as well as protecting and repairing DNA. In 1/3 of astrocytomas, p53 is altered or removed entirely. This points to p53 being a key defense against astrocytoma, and if it mutates, that will increase the likelihood of astrocytoma developing.

Histopathology Brain--Astrocytoma

What Are the treatments and/or cures?

A treatment for astrocytoma can vary based on the size and location of the tumor. An astrocytoma moves very quickly, out like spiderwebs. The movement can be slowed with certain molecules, which helps in treatment. There are no cures to date, but some common treatments are:

  • surgery
  • radiation treatment

chemotherapy can follow surgery in treating the tumor.