Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumour in humans.

Following diagnosis, doctors will evaluate whether or not an operation can be performed. If they feel they are able to operate, the visible parts of the tumour will be removed. Doctors will try to extract as much of the tumour as possible, as this will increase the life expectancy, although only by months.

Despite the surgeon’s best efforts to remove all of the cells, it is often buried so deeply within the brain that some are left behind. Most people who have been diagnosed with GBM will later develop recurrent tumours either near the original one or at more distant "satellite lesions" within the brain.

The brain has a very limited capacity to repair itself and many drugs cannot cross the blood-brain barrier to act on the tumour. The brain is susceptible to damage through conventional therapy. In some cases surgery is not possible due to the delicate positioning of the tumour, thus considerably reducing life expectancy to 3-4 months.

Around 4,500 people are diagnosed each year in the UK. Brain tumours can occur at any age but are more common in older people. About 300 children are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year. Cancerous brain tumours are the second most common type of childhood cancer after leukaemia.

However there is still no known cause or cure for GBM and research into all brain tumours still only receives less than 1% of total cancer research funds. Research, today, is at the same place it was in the 1960s.

The most common symptoms of brain tumours are headaches and seizures (fits). Feeling nauseous or vomiting and experiencing blurred vision.

These symptoms can be caused by increased pressure in the skull from the tumour. If the brain tumour causes seizures, speech may be affected and moments of unconsciousness could occur.

Weakness on one side of the body, difficulties with speaking, reading and writing, problems with hearing or sense of smell and changes in personality, memory or mental ability are other possible symptoms of a brain tumour.

Why does research matter so much?

It is vital for Doctors to do more research into both GBM and brain tumours in general. As mentioned above, there is no known cause for brain tumours.

Despite reports in the media, that anything from sugary foods to mobile phones can cause a brain tumour, nothing has ever been proven.

Without knowing the cause of a tumour, medics and the public are unable to prevent them from occurring, to treat them or to find a cure.

It is through charities like Red Wellies, that doctors and medical students are able to perform clinical trials in a bid to get some answers.