Chemotherapy for Glioma & Astrocytoma

Chemotherapy drugs are used to destroy cancer cells in the brain. They may be given by mouth or through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion. The grade of glioma and the tumor’s DNA mutations, determined by precision molecular testing at the time of diagnosis, help doctors at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center decide which chemotherapy drugs to use, as well as the length and number of treatment cycles.

Chemotherapy drugs taken by mouth are given on different schedules depending on the drug used. Sometimes the drug is taken once and sometimes it is taken daily over a period of days or weeks. This is followed by a period of rest to allow the body to recover, similar to IV chemotherapy. This cycle may be repeated over the course of several months. Your doctor helps you decide on the type of chemotherapy and schedule that are right for you.

People with high-grade gliomas are typically given a chemotherapy drug called temozolomide, along with radiation therapy, after surgery. This medication is taken once a day by mouth for six weeks during radiation therapy. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, weakness, unusual bleeding, bruising, blistering, peeling, or a red skin rash.

Some people with high-grade gliomas may require a second course of temozolomide, which is given after radiation therapy is finished. Temozolomide is usually taken once a day for five days every four weeks over the course of about six months.

If needed, our doctors may administer IV chemotherapy for several hours every three to six weeks with time between treatments to allow the body to recover. This cycle may be repeated several times over a period of three to six months.

Side effects of chemotherapy can include low levels of blood cells, hair loss, loss of appetite, and nausea and vomiting. To help manage side effects, our specialists prescribe medication, adjust the dose of chemotherapy, or recommend integrative therapies, such as massage, offered through Perlmutter Cancer Center.