Julia Krestow, BSc, MSc
Brain cancer has long been known as one of the most difficult neoplasms to treat. Since the 1970's there has been little change in its management despite considerable laboratory progress in understanding brain tumour biology. Recently, however, advances in imaging techniques have begun to result in earlier and more accurate diagnosis.1 Correct diagnosis combined with the standardized World Health Organization (WHO) classification system for tumours constitute the first step in a successful treatment strategy. The primary challenge and rate-determining step in brain cancer treatment is understanding the underlying tumour biology. This will determine tumour resistance to radiation and chemotherapy, tumour location and the degree of vascularity and abnormal vessel formation within a tumour. Together these comprise the main challenges of brain cancer treatment. Current research areas include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which increa-ses surgical safety, new chemotherapeutics, such as, small molecule targeting drugs, which selectively kill tumour cells, and the still theoretical field of immunotherapy. Together these offer considerable hope to physicians, patients and their families even for the most malignant cancers generally found in older patients.
Brain tumours are classified according to the tumour type and cell of origin. They are also classified as primary and secondary depending on the absence or presence of metastases.
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