Genes Linked to Glioblastoma May Predict Overall Survival

Eight genes expressed in glioblastoma tumors that can predict the survival time of the patient.

Researchers in a new study discovered a group of immune system genes that could possibly predict the amount of time a person with glioblastoma multiforme will survive.

Glioblastoma is a tumor of the glial cells in the brain, and most patients live less than 2 years, despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, according to a study published in Neurology.

"We've had luck with other types of cancer in removing the brakes on the immune system to allow it to fight the tumors, but this has not been the case with glioblastoma," said study author Anhua Wu, MD, PhD. "If our discovery of these genes is validated in other studies, we could use this 'gene signature' to determine the best treatments or path of treatment."

In this study, researchers included brain tumor tissue samples from 297 patients with glioblastoma, of which 170 patients had a lower grade glioma.

Researchers used genome sequencing to analyze 322 immune-related genes and found 8 that played a role in glioblastoma. There were 3 genes that protected against the cancer, while the other 5 increased the risk of earlier death.

Researchers then created a risk stratification compatible for both types of tumors. Patients with glioblastoma were grouped as being high-risk or low-risk.

Patients who were high-risk lived approximately 348 days after diagnosis, while the low-risk group lived for 493 days. The researchers found that the high-risk group had an average of 242 days before disease progression, compared with 369 days for the low-risk group.

After adjusting for survival factors, the researchers found the same results. They also analyzed 536 glioblastoma samples from a database, which showed the tumor samples had the same 8 genes.

"The looming question in brain cancer research today is whether the launch of immunotherapy will help control an uncontrollable disease," said Rifaat Bashir, MD, who wrote an accompanying editorial. "While this study does not answer this question, it brings us one step closer to believing that one day we will be able to exploit the immune system to better treat glioblastoma."