What is an oligodendroglioma brain tumour?

An Oligodendroglioma, sometimes referred to as an oligodendroglial tumour, is a rare, usually slow-growing tumour that forms from oligodendrocytes, which are a form of glial cell. It is more commonly diagnosed in adults rather than in children.

What are the types of oligodendroglioma brain tumour?

Oligodendrogliomas are classified into different types based on their histopathological features, particularly the appearance of the tumour cells under a microscope. The World Health Organization (WHO) classification system is commonly used to categorise these tumours. The WHO classification of central nervous system tumours includes two main types of oligodendrogliomas:

Oligodendroglioma, NOS (Not Otherwise Specified): This category includes tumours that display the typical histological features of oligodendrogliomas but do not fit into any specific subtypes.

Anaplastic oligodendroglioma: These are more malignant and aggressive forms of oligodendrogliomas. Anaplastic oligodendrogliomas are characterised by the presence of more abnormal cells and increased mitotic activity. They are considered Grade 3 tumours, indicating a higher degree of malignancy compared to Grade 2 oligodendrogliomas.

Oligodendroglioma classification

Historically, the classification of all brain tumours has been guided by how the tumour cells look when observed through a microscope (histopathological classification). This process is still very much in use today and provides a crucial starting point for understanding your individual brain tumour. Oligodendroglioma histology would indicate one of the following subgroups:

What causes an oligodendroglioma brain tumour?

A glioma brain tumour develops from cells that begin as neural stem cells. From this state they become progenitor cells, and then glial cells. When glial cells form a glioma tumour, damage can be seen in the DNA and they no longer undergo apoptosis, which means programmed or purposeful cell death. Apoptosis is an important process that enables our bodies to destroy cells that are faulty or at the end of their natural life cycle. When this process fails to happen, cells grow in an uncontrolled way and build up to form a tumour.

Discover more about risk factors for brain tumours on the ‘What causes a brain tumour?’ page of our website.

Oligodendroglioma treatment

UK treatment pathways for oligodendroglioma can be found in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and are summarised here.

Frequently asked questions

What is a glial cell?

Glial cells form a web of connective glial tissue to support the neurons (nerve cells) within the brain and spinal cord. Types of glial cells include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells.

Oligodendroglioma, astrocytoma and ependymoma brain tumours are therefore all classified as glioma tumours because they develop from glial cells, and in some cases a “mixed glioma” brain tumour may develop that contains a mixture of these different cells.

How can we find a cure for oligodendrogliomas?

Research we are funding across all of our Brain Tumour Research Centres will help lead towards finding a cure for oligodendroglioma brain tumours.

Our team at the University of Plymouth Low-Grade Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence are researching a range of mutations in brain tumour cells that initiate tumour progression and drive growth, transforming slow-growing low-grade gliomas into high-grade gliomas. Their discoveries are designed to enable new treatments to be developed and tested to halt and hopefully reverse this process.

Pioneering research at our Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London is focused on using glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) stem cells to help develop unique, patient-specific treatments that should also benefit those with other types of glioma brain tumours.

The team of research and clinical experts at our Centre of Excellence at Imperial College, London, are part of a global collaboration looking at how the ketogenic diet can influence GBM metabolism and help in the effective treatment and management of living with this brain tumour. They are also studying the influence of arginine deprivation on GBM cells and are working towards a clinical trial to investigate this further. They expect that their discoveries will also benefit other types of glioma brain tumours.

Scientists at our Centre of Excellence in the University of Portsmouth are looking at mitochondria in GBMs, exploring ways to ‘shut down’ these ‘batteries’ that supply energy to these and other types of glioma brain tumours.

We also fund BRAIN UK at Southampton University, the country’s only national tissue bank registry providing crucial access to brain tumour samples for researchers from all clinical neuroscience centres in the UK, effectively covering about 90% of the UK population, and an essential component in the fight to find a cure for all types of gliomas.