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The UCLA Brain Tumor Center is one of the top glioma programs in the country. We have more than 20 years of experience and offer innovative treatments such as vaccine therapies that are only available in a handful of centers across the country.
What is a Glioma?
Gliomas are among the most common tumors that first appear in the brain (primary brain tumors). However, glioma care at UCLA is anything but common. Our team includes a world-class team of experts who specialize in treating this type of brain tumor.
Gliomas form in the sticky, supportive cells (glial cells) that surround your nerves and help them function. There are many types of glial cells and gliomas can arise from any of them.
The three main types of glial cells include:
- Astrocytes: These cells perform many functions, such as providing nourishment to your nervous system tissue.
- Ependymal cells: Located in the lining of your spinal cord, these cells help your body produce the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) that surrounds your brain and spine.
- Oligodendrocytes: These cells produce a substance (myelin) that insulates nerve fibers.
What Causes Gliomas?
Glial cells have the ability to divide and multiply. When this happens too rapidly and without control, a glioma forms. We do not yet know what causes this to happen.
Gliomas cause a variety of symptoms. Which ones you experience depend on the size and location of the tumor.
Common symptoms include:
- Behavioral changes
- Inability to sleep
- Chronic headache
- Sudden surge in the electrical patterns in your brain (seizure)
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Short-term memory problems
- Speech problems
Different types of brain tumors can cause similar symptoms. Some people experience symptoms similar to a brain tumor when in fact they are experiencing a central nervous system disorder, such as a stroke (What Is a Stroke?). If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to visit the UCLA Neurology Clinics so you can receive an accurate diagnosis.
You may receive one or more tests, including:
- Neurological exam: A neurological exam includes simple tests to assess your nerves, senses and mental state. This exam helps us rule out other problems, such as a stroke.
- Imaging tests: Patients at UCLA have access to the best available imaging techniques. Our tools include three-dimensional brain mapping, which gives us important information about tumors located near areas that control critical functions such as breathing.
- Advanced tissue analysis: We are one of few programs in the country performing advanced molecular analysis on most of our patients’ tumor tissue. This analysis helps us identify genes and other unique characteristics that support a detailed and accurate diagnosis.
Learn more about diagnosis and imaging.
Glioma Treatments Available at the UCLA Brain Tumor Center
Part of what makes brain tumor treatment at UCLA unique is that we perform genetic testing on all tumors. We use this information to guide important treatment decisions.
You may receive one or more treatments:
- Clinical trials: Through research and clinical trials, we are able to offer treatments that are not widely available. We were the first program in the country offering special vaccines for gliomas. These therapies boost your body’s natural ability to fight tumor cells (immunotherapy).
- Biologics: Biologic therapies (biologics) represent a promising new tool to fight cancer. Immunotherapy works to harness your body’s immune system. Medical oncologists at UCLA have also earned a national reputation for their expertise in targeted therapies, a type of biologic therapy. Learn more about biologics.
- Neurosurgery: We use pioneering surgical techniques and advanced echnology to perform the safest, most effective neurosurgery. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, you may be able to receive minimally invasive neurosurgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation oncology destroys tumor cells with the help of high-energy radiation. Using the best available technology, such as the Novalis Tx Radiosurgery System, helps us deliver therapies with a level of precision that few centers can match.
At UCLA, we use a team approach to determine the best treatment. Experts in every subspecialty of brain tumor care come together to develop a customized treatment plan for you. Meet our team.