Astrocytoma - Childhood: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about astrocytoma and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about astrocytoma. This includes ways to prevent it and how to provide the best care to children diagnosed with astrocytoma. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your child’s doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for your child.

  • Improved methods of imaging and surgery. Imaging techniques are being developed and improved that help surgeons better pinpoint the tumor’s location. These techniques can help reduce or prevent damage to the healthy parts of the central nervous system (CNS) during treatment.

    • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) identifies the parts of the brain that control speech, hearing, vision, touch, and movement. The specific locations of these functions are slightly different in each person. Functional MRI allows surgeons to plan surgery around these areas.

    • Image-guided stereotaxis allows surgeons to visualize and operate on the brain using 3-dimensional outlines of the brain and the tumor. Along with specialized software, these images help guide the surgeon to the tumor. Tumors that were once considered inoperable can often be removed with this technique.

  • Improved ways to give radiation therapy. Conformal radiation therapy is a way to deliver high doses of radiation directly to a tumor and not healthy tissue. This technique produces detailed 3-dimensional maps of the brain and tumor. These maps help doctors know exactly where to direct the radiation therapy.

  • Targeted treatments based on the tumor's molecular features. As discussed in Types of Treatment, researchers are studying the use of targeted therapy to treat astrocytoma with certain genetic changes. Specifically, researchers are studying new drugs that target changes, called mutations or alterations, on the BRAF gene.

  • Immunotherapy. As outlined in Types of Treatment, immunotherapy is an active area of research for astrocytoma. Researchers are studying how well these types of drugs work and how safe they are for children with both high-grade and low-grade astrocytoma.

  • Palliative care/supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current astrocytoma treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in childhood CNS tumors, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that astrocytoma and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.