Brain cancer is not one single disease – the term covers a range of cancers that originate at different locations, at different times, and in different cells of the brain. There are many types of brain cancer, and classifying them is difficult. Below are the two major groups of brain tumours that harbour the most aggressive cancers in adults and children.


Gliomas affect various types of glial cell, which support and nourish neurons and facilitate neuron to neuron communication. The type of glial cells from which tumours arise is reflected in the name: ependymoma are arise from ependymal cells that line the ventricles (fluid-filled cavities) of the brain and spinal cord. Oligodendroglioma originate from oligodendrocytes, which insulate axons. Astrocytoma are derived from astrocytes and help transmit messages and form part of the blood-brain barrier. The most aggressive from of astrocytomas, grade IV, is called Glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is the most common and deadliest brain cancer found in adults. Diffuse midline glioma are also grade IV glioma and were previously referred to as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) or brain stem glioma. They predominantly affect children and have a very poor prognosis.

Embryonal tumours

Embryonal tumours arise in immature cells. These 'progenitor' cells are capable of dividing, and will later mature into either neurons or glial cells. Medulloblastoma is an example of a highly aggressive, stage IV tumour. Medulloblastoma originates in the cerebellum, a part of the brain important for motor control. Embryonal tumour mostly occurs in children.


  What is brain cancer?

  Signs and symptoms of brain cancer

  Diagnosing and treating brain cancer

  Brain cancer research at QBI