Understanding glioblastoma recurrence and treatment options

myTomorrows Team 19 Jul 2023

6 mins read

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Glioblastoma is a highly aggressive form of brain cancer that often poses significant challenges for patients. Despite advancements in treatment, the recurrence of glioblastoma remains a major concern. In this article, we will delve into the causes behind glioblastoma recurrence, the symptoms to be aware of, and the available glioblastoma treatment options. Additionally, we will explore the role of clinical trials as an alternative option for patients with recurring glioblastoma.

How often does glioblastoma recur?

Glioblastoma recurrence is unfortunately quite common, with a high percentage of patients experiencing tumour regrowth after initial treatment. Studies indicate that approximately 90% of glioblastoma patients will face recurrence within two years of the initial diagnosis. This recurrence is primarily due to the aggressive nature of glioblastoma, and its ability to infiltrate surrounding brain tissue.

What causes glioblastoma recurrence?

The complete reasons behind glioblastoma relapse remain unclear. However, several factors may contribute to its reappearance. One significant factor is the presence of residual cancer cells that remain in the brain after initial treatment. These cells can later develop into recurrent tumours.

The invasive nature of glioblastoma cells and their tendency to spread into healthy brain tissue makes it challenging to eradicate them completely. The recurrence and progression of the disease are worsened by genetic mutations in the tumour and changes in the surrounding environment.

Symptoms of glioblastoma recurrence

Recognising the symptoms associated with glioblastoma recurrence is crucial for early detection and intervention. Common symptoms may include worsening headaches, seizures, cognitive decline, changes in speech and vision, and motor coordination difficulties. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult your doctor promptly. They can evaluate your condition and determine the appropriate course of action for further evaluation and if required, treatment.

Prognosis when glioblastoma returns

The prognosis when glioblastoma returns can be challenging. Recurrent glioblastoma can often be more severe and harder to treat compared to the first time it was diagnosed. However, individual prognosis may vary, based on factors such as age, overall health, response to treatment, and the location of the recurrent tumour. Seeking specialised medical care and exploring available treatment options are crucial steps in improving outcomes and enhancing the quality of life for people facing recurrent glioblastoma.

Possible treatment options for recurrent glioblastoma

While recurrent glioblastoma poses significant challenges, there are various treatment options and therapies available. These options may include treatments under development. The choice of treatment methods is influenced by different factors such as the person’s general well-being, past therapies, and the unique features of the recurring growth. Choosing a treatment option is done in consultation with a doctor who can take into consideration different patient factors. Some of the treatment options for recurrent glioblastoma include:

Dendritic cell vaccine

Dendritic cell vaccines, a type of immunotherapy, aim to stimulate the patient’s immune response against glioblastoma cells, potentially slowing tumour growth and improving survival outcomes. Ongoing research and clinical trials are currently exploring the safety and efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines in the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma.

Tumour-treating fields

Tumour-treating fields (TTFs) are a non-invasive treatment option for recurrent glioblastoma. The technique involves using a device that delivers low levels of electricity to the area of the cancerous mass. These electric fields disturb the multiplication of cancerous cells, which could have the effect of suppressing the development of the tumour.

TTFs have shown promise in extending survival and improving outcomes for patients with recurrent glioblastoma. Ongoing research continues to refine treatment protocols and expand the application of TTFs.

Nano therapy: targeted treatment with reduced side effects

Nanotherapy utilises nanotechnology to deliver a chemotherapy drug directly to the tumour site, minimizing damage to healthy brain tissue. It works by taking cancer-fighting medicine straight to the cancer cells. This could lead to improved outcomes for patients. Ongoing studies are investigating the safety and effectiveness of nano therapy in glioblastoma patients.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and supportive care

Established treatment therapies such as chemotherapy and surgery play important roles in managing recurrent glioblastoma. Different chemotherapy drugs or drug combinations may be utilised to target the cancer cells and slow disease progression. The acquired resistance may limit the efficacy of chemotherapy in cases of recurrent glioblastoma.

Cancer cells can be destroyed by radiation therapy, which uses methods like stereotactic radiosurgery and fractionated radiation therapy to deliver accurate and targeted radiation to the recurring tumour.

Surgery can ease symptoms and decrease tumour size, but its possibility relies on different elements like tumour location and the patient’s health and may not be a suitable course of action. Surgery aims to alleviate pressure on the brain and improve the patient’s quality of life.

It is important to provide supportive care measures such as pain management, psychological support, and palliative care to address the physical and emotional aspects of the disease. This can enhance the overall patient well-being and quality of life.

Role of clinical trials

Clinical trials play a vital role in advancing our understanding of glioblastoma and exploring new treatment options. For patients diagnosed with glioblastoma recurrence, clinical trials could offer alternative avenues for treatment. These trials investigate new therapies, such as targeted therapies, new drug combinations, and emerging immunotherapies. Participating in a clinical trial provides an opportunity to access treatments under development.

At myTomorrows we can support patients, caregivers and physicians in search of clinical trials by providing a personalised search report, containing options the patient may be potentially eligible for. If a decision is made to go forward with a clinical trial, we can also support with referral and enrollment.

Click here to find out more and contact us to speak to a dedicated patient navigator.


Understanding glioblastoma recurrence and the available treatment options is vital for patients diagnosed with this challenging disease. By exploring the causes, mechanisms, symptoms, and treatment options associated with glioblastoma recurrence, patients and their loved ones can make informed decisions about their care. From new therapies like dendritic cell vaccines to established treatments such as chemotherapy, a comprehensive approach may help manage recurrent glioblastoma and enhance well-being and quality of life.

myTomorrows is dedicated to helping patients with glioblastoma find and access potential treatment options, such as clinical trials. Click here to get started and speak with one of our patient navigators.  

The information in this blog is not intended as a substitute for a medical consultation. Always consult a doctor before receiving a diagnosis or treatment.

The myTomorrows team
Anthony Fokkerweg 61-2
1059CP Amsterdam
The Netherlands

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myTomorrows Team 19 Jul 2023

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