Practical guidelines for the treatment of malignant gliomas

West J Med. 1998 Feb;168(2):114-20.


The treatment of patients with malignant gliomas is palliative and encompasses surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Outcome measures have demonstrated improvement in both survival and neurologic performance in patients undergoing complete or near-complete tumor resection. After surgery, involved-field radiotherapy (radiotherapy administered to the tumor and to the tissue in a 3-cm radius surrounding the tumor) has been shown to further improve survival rates when given in a total dose of 6000-6500 cGy. Survival is further improved by the coadministration of the chemoradiopotentiator hydroxycarbamide (hydroxyurea). The role of adjuvant or boost stereotactic radiotherapy is unclear, despite its frequent use. In addition, adjuvant chemotherapy has been shown to improve survival rates in approximately one-quarter of patients with glioblastoma multiforme and in the majority of patients with anaplastic astrocytoma. No a priori method exists, however, to predict which patient will benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy. As a consequence, all physiological young patients with good performance status or limited neurologic disability are treated with chemotherapy. The best results of adjuvant chemotherapy are achieved with a nitrosourea chemotherapy, either carmustine (BCNU) or a combination of procarbazine and lomustine (CCNU) and vincristine, known as PCV-3 therapy. Salvage chemotherapy is reserved for patients with tumor progression, some of whom benefit from a re-operation. Occasional patients with recurrent gliomas may be palliated by stereotactic radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Glioma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Salvage Therapy