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About Gliomas


Gliomas are tumors that develop from glial cells, support cells found in the brain and spinal cord. At Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we specialize in glioma treatment options including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Gliomas make up more than a quarter of all brain tumors. Several types of gliomas exist, each of which can be benign or malignant. Each type is named after the kind of glial cell from which it arises. Glial cells include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymocytes; each performs unique functions to support the brain and spinal cord. These are the types of gliomas:

  • Astrocytomas develop from astrocytes and are the most common type of glioma. (Astrocytomas in the spine are handled by the specialists at our Spine Hospital. For information about spinal astrocytomas, please click here.)
  • Oligodendrogliomas arise from oligodendrocytes, oblong glial cells that cover nerve cells in the brain. These tumors make up about 10 to 15 percent of gliomas.
  • Ependymomas come from cells called ependymocytes, which line the cavities of the brain and spinal canal. These tumors are rare and develop mostly in children.
  • Mixed gliomas contain more than one type of glial cell. They are also sometimes called oligoastrocytomas and are usually a mixture of abnormal oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. Sometimes abnormal ependymocytes are present. Mixed gliomas make up about 5 to 10 percent of gliomas.
  • Gangliogliomas develop from both glial cells and nerve cells. These are rare.

Gliomas can grow in a variety of places throughout the brain. Gliomas that grow in certain locations in the brain may have a name other than one listed above. This alternative, or additional, name is used because it describes the location of the tumor. Below are a few examples. All of these examples, derived from astrocytes, are astrocytomas.

  • Optic glioma—A tumor that develops from the astrocytes around the optic nerves, which transmit visual information from the retina at the back of each eye to the brain.  
  • Brain stem glioma—A tumor in the brainstem, the lower region in the brain that coordinates circulation, respiration and other tasks.
  • Cerebellar astrocytoma—A tumor in the cerebellum, the small, lower part of the brain that coordinates balance and motor control.

patient journey

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