Two diffuse astrocytoma variants have been deleted from the World Health Organization Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System 2016: protoplasmic astrocytoma, a diagnosis that was previously defined in only vague terms and is almost never made any longer given that tumors with this histological appearance are typically characterized as other more narrowly defined lesions; and fibrillary astrocytoma, since this diagnosis overlaps nearly entirely with the standard diffuse astrocytoma. As a result, only gemistocytic astrocytoma remains as a distinct variant of diffuse astrocytoma IDH-mutant.
Fibrillary astrocytomas also called low grade or diffuse astrocytomas, are a group of primary slow growing brain tumors. They typically occur in adults between the ages of twenty and fifty.
Fibrillary astrocytomas arise from neoplastic astrocytes, a type of glial cell found in the central nervous system. They may occur anywhere in the brain, or even in the spinal cord, but are most commonly found in the cerebral hemispheres. As the alternative name of “diffuse astrocytoma” implies, the outline of the tumour is not clearly visible in scans, because the borders of the neoplasm tend to send out tiny microscopic fibrillary tentacles that spread into the surrounding brain tissue. These tentacles intermingle with healthy brain cells, making complete surgical removal difficult. However, they are low grade tumors, with a slow rate of growth, so that patients commonly survive longer than those with otherwise similar types of brain tumour, such as glioblastoma multiforme.