An anaplastic oligoastrocytoma is a type of brain tumor. Brain tumors are often referred to as glioma. A glioma is a tumor that has originated in the brain or spine. Sometimes this is called a "primary" brain tumor. This means it was formed from brain cells, and so it is not a tumor that came from cancer elsewhere in the body that metastisized to the brain. The main types of glioma are ependymomas, astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, or a "mixed" glioma, which is what Adam has. His tumor is made up of both astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, which makes it quite rare. Tumors are either low-grade (1 or 2) or high-grade (3 or 4). Low-grade tumors are well-differentiated, which means that they look a lot like their neighboring cells. High-grade tumors are undifferentiated or "anaplastic". These cells look nothing like their healthy counterparts, and so are considered malignant.
Gliomas do not metastisize by the bloodstream, therefore they do not spread to other areas of the body. However, they can spread via cerebrospinal fluid and metastisize to other areas of the brain and/or spinal cord. Low-grade gliomas grow slowly, often over many years, and can be followed without treatment unless they grow large enough to cause symptoms. High-grade gliomas almost always grow back even after complete surgical removal, and are therefore often referred to as recurrent brain cancer.
Gliomas are rarely curable. Low-grade patients have a median survival of between 10 and 15 years. The prognosis for patients with high-grade gliomas is generally poor. Of 10,000 Americans diagnosed each year with malignant gliomas (Grade 3 or 4), only 50% of them are alive after 1 year. 25% will survive 2 years. For anaplastic astrocytoma (which is similar to oligoastrocytoma) survival is about 3 years.
Conventional treatment for brain gliomas is a combined approach of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. None of these treatments have been proven to prolong life and can cause serious and debilitating side effects.