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Arthur & Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre

About brain tumours

The brain contains about 10 Billion (10,000,000,000) working brain cells. They are called neurons and make over 13 Trillion (13,000,000,000,000) connections with each other to form the neural networks.

Along with such complexity, most of the brain is made up of supporting cells. The vast majority of these are called astrocytes. These cells are the support "stuff" of the brain, and serve as a scaffold for the working brain cells and other structures. Oligodendrocytes, another type of brain cell, are much fewer in number; they are primarily responsible for making the covers (called myelin) for the vast wiring system of the brain. The ependymal cells are fewest in number; they simply cover the inner surfaces of the brain called ventricles.

The brain has various coverings (meninges or dura). The cells of the meninges are unique, and some of them are capable of filtering the brain fluid (CSF) back into the bloodstream by a sort of one way valve system. They are called arachnoid cap cells.

Also, hanging beneath the brain is the Pituitary Gland, which controls almost all of the body's hormonal systems. Behind the brain is a little pine cone called the Pineal Gland, which tells the body when it is day and when it is night via its now popular brain hormone, melatonin.

Brain tumours originate from one cell at a time. So, it makes sense to divide the tumours depending on the cell type that are present in the first point of tumour. Brain tumours can arise either from the brain itself commonly referred as "gliomas" (primary brain tumours: astrocytoma, glioblastoma, oligodendroglioma, ependymoma), or its coverings (meningiomas, pituitary tumours, pineal tumours), or the nerves at the base of the brain (acoustic neuromas, schwannomas), or even from outside the brain (metastatic brain tumours). This last case occurs when cancer cells travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the brain.