Brain tumors present a particular challenge as the risk of harming healthy brain tissue can severely limit doctors' ability to use surgery, radiation or other treatments. Still, researchers are making steady progress to extend survival and improve patients' quality of life. For example, recent genetic discoveries have led to the identification of distinct sub-types of brain tumors, allowing doctors to personalize care to individual patients and providing potential targets for new treatments.
The FDA grants accelerated approval to the oral chemotherapy drug temozolomide (Temodar) to treat anaplastic astrocytoma (a form of high-grade glioma) that recurs following other therapy. The approval is based on early-stage data suggesting that the drug shrinks tumors and is generally well tolerated. In 2005, temozolomide receives full approval for this and other high-grade gliomas, based on data showing that adding the drug to initial radiation therapy increases two-year survival by as much as 50 percent.