Brain tumors are particularly challenging because they arise within one of the body's most critical organs. The risk of harming healthy brain tissue can severely limit doctors' ability to use surgery, radiation or other treatments. Yet researchers are steadily overcoming these challenges to extend survival and improve patients' quality of life. For example, in recent years:
Advances in the use of chemotherapy, including drugs that can cross the protective "blood-brain-barrier" and radiation, have helped triple (from 8 percent to 25 percent) the percentage of patients who survive at least two years with glioblastoma, one of the most common brain tumors.
Refined imaging technologies have led to improved tumor diagnosis and monitoring, and enable doctors to precisely focus radiation treatment to protect healthy brain tissue.
Recent genetic discoveries have led to the identification of distinct sub-types of brain tumors, making it possible for doctors to personalize care to individual patients and providing potential targets for new treatments.
Although more than 50 types of brain tumors are known, nearly half of cases fall within a related group of tumors called gliomas. These tumors are the primary focus of this timeline.