Giant Cell Glioblastoma and Astrocytoma: A Comprehensive Overview

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Giant Cell Glioblastoma: A Comprehensive Overview


Giant cell glioblastoma (GCG) is a rare and aggressive type of brain tumor that falls under the umbrella of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and malignant primary brain cancer. GCGs are characterized by the presence of distinctive giant cells, which are large, atypical cells that exhibit abnormal cell division and growth patterns. This article provides a comprehensive overview of GCG, including its epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathology, molecular genetics, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.


GCG accounts for approximately 2-5% of all GBM cases, with an incidence of 0.2-0.5 cases per 100,000 population per year. It primarily affects adults in their 50s and 60s, with a slight male predominance.

Clinical Presentation

GCG typically presents with similar symptoms to other GBM subtypes, including:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Focal neurological deficits (e.g., weakness, speech problems)
  • Increased intracranial pressure (e.g., nausea, vomiting)
  • Cognitive impairment

Symptoms may progress rapidly due to the aggressive nature of GCG.


Histologically, GCGs are characterized by the presence of giant cells. These cells are large (up to 100 micrometers in diameter), pleomorphic, and often multinucleated. They exhibit abnormal mitotic figures, including multipolar spindles, and have high Ki-67 proliferative index. In addition to giant cells, GCGs may also contain other GBM components, such as gemistocytic, endothelial, and small cell variants.

Molecular Genetics

Similar to GBM, GCGs often harbor certain molecular genetic alterations. These include:

  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) amplification/overexpression: Occurs in 60-70% of GCGs and is associated with worse prognosis.
  • TP53 mutation: Present in approximately 50% of GCGs, contributing to cell cycle dysregulation and genomic instability.
  • IDH1/2 mutation: Rarely occurs in GCG, as opposed to other GBM subtypes.


The diagnosis of GCG is based on a combination of clinical findings, imaging studies, and biopsy.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Reveals a hyperintense mass on T2-weighted images and contrast enhancement.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: May show a mass with surrounding edema.
  • Biopsy: Histological examination of tumor tissue is essential for definitive diagnosis and classification.


The treatment of GCG is similar to that of other GBM subtypes and typically includes a combination of:

  • Surgery: Gross total resection (GTR) is the preferred treatment if feasible, as it can relieve symptoms and improve survival.
  • Radiotherapy: External beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is used to target the tumor and surrounding tissue.
  • Chemotherapy: Temozolomide is the standard first-line chemotherapy agent for GBM, including GCG.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs such as bevacizumab (anti-VEGF therapy) may be used to target specific molecular pathways involved in tumor growth.


The prognosis of GCG is generally poor. The median overall survival (OS) is approximately 12-18 months, which is slightly shorter than other GBM subtypes. Factors that influence prognosis include:

  • Extent of surgical resection
  • Age of patient
  • Performance status
  • Molecular genetic alterations

Future Directions

Ongoing research is focused on improving the treatment and outcomes of GCG patients. This includes:

  • Identifying new molecular targets for therapy
  • Developing novel therapeutic strategies, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy
  • Improving diagnostic techniques to differentiate GCG from other brain tumors


Giant cell glioblastoma is a rare and aggressive primary brain tumor. It is characterized by the presence of giant cells and molecular genetic alterations similar to other GBM subtypes. The diagnosis is based on clinical findings, imaging studies, and biopsy. Treatment typically involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. The prognosis of GCG is generally poor, but ongoing research aims to improve patient outcomes.

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