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Gliosarcoma Diagnosis and Treatment

MRI of gliosarcoma tumors in the brain.

Credit: NCI-CONNECT Staff

Gliosarcoma is a primary central nervous system (CNS) tumor. This means it begins in the brain or spinal cord. Gliosarcoma is a rare type of glioma.

To get an accurate diagnosis, a piece of tumor tissue will be removed during surgery, if possible. A neuropathologist should then review the tumor tissue.

What are the grades of gliosarcomas?

CNS tumors are graded based on the tumor location, tumor type, extent of tumor spread, genetic findings, the patient’s age, and tumor remaining after surgery, if surgery is possible.

Gliosarcomas are all classified as grade 4 (also written as grade IV) tumors. This means they are malignant (cancerous) and fast-growing. They are further described as primary or secondary:

  • Primary: The tumor is diagnosed from the first surgery or biopsy.
  • Secondary: The tumor forms from a pre-existing glioma, usually after radiation treatment.

What do gliosarcomas look like on an MRI?

Gliosarcomas usually appear as a single tumor with vague borders. The tumors may occur near the surface of the brain and be attached to the covering of the brain. The tumor often brightens with contrast and many tumors can occur in different areas of the CNS. Gliosarcomas usually have some swelling around them.

What causes gliosarcomas?

Cancer is a genetic disease – that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function. Genes may be mutated (changed) in many types of cancer, which can increase the growth and spread of cancer cells. The cause of most gliosarcomas is not known. Previous exposure to radiation and certain gene changes that can be passed down through families have been linked to a higher chance of developing glioblastomas.

Where do gliosarcomas form?

Gliosarcomas are commonly found along the surface of the brain, but can form in the spinal cord. They arise from glial cells, the supportive cells in the brain. Gliosarcomas develop with two different characteristics. Some resemble astrocytes, a star-shaped glial cell and the most abundant cell in the brain. Other gliosarcomas resemble connective tissue cells called sarcomas.

Do gliosarcomas spread?

Gliosarcomas can spread to other areas of the CNS through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Gliosarcomas generally don’t spread outside of the CNS to other organs.

What are the symptoms of gliosarcomas?

Symptoms related to gliosarcomas depend on the tumor’s location. Here are some possible symptoms that can occur.

Gliosarcoma Symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Thinking or memory difficulties
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Problems with balance and movement

Who is diagnosed with gliosarcomas?

Gliosarcomas occur most often in people between the ages of 40 and 60, but can occur at any age. Gliosarcomas occur slightly more often in males than females. They are most common in white and non-hispanic people. An estimated 557 people are living with this tumor in the United States.

Gliosarcoma Statistics

What is the prognosis of gliosarcomas?

The likely outcome of the disease or chance of recovery is called prognosis.

Gliosarcoma Prognosis

The relative 5-year survival rate for gliosarcoma is 5.6% but know that many factors can affect prognosis. This includes the tumor grade and type, traits of the cancer, the person’s age and health when diagnosed, and how they respond to treatment. If you want to understand your prognosis, talk to your doctor.

What are the treatment options for gliosarcomas?

The first treatment for a gliosarcoma is surgery, if possible. The goal of surgery is to obtain tissue to determine the tumor type and to remove as much tumor as possible without causing more symptoms for the person.

Gliosarcomas are aggressive so most people receive further treatments. Treatments may include radiation, chemotherapy, or taking part in clinical trials. Clinical trials, with new chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy drugs, may also be available and can be a possible treatment option. Treatments are decided by the patient’s healthcare team based on the patient’s age, remaining tumor after surgery, tumor type, and tumor location.

Open Clinical Studies for Gliosarcomas

Learn More


Find doctors and nurses with experience treating this tumor.

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