New Study Doubles Known Glioma Risk Factors

Genetic factors can be assessed to determine the risk of developing glioma, including glioblastoma and non-glioblastoma.

A large study published by Nature Genetics recently doubled the amount of known genetic factors that increase the risk of developing glioma. These findings will allow physicians to distinguish between the risk of subtypes, including glioblastoma and non-glioblastoma.

Included in the study were blood samples from more than 30,000 patients, which led to the discovery of 13 new genetic risk factors that increase a patient’s susceptibility to glioma.

“Because of the large sample size used in this study, for the first time we were able to assess if genetic risk was different for glioblastoma versus non-glioblastoma,” said Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, PhD. “Indeed their genetic risk profiles are different.”

In the United States alone, malignant brain tumors cause more than 13,000 deaths each year. Being able to better predict the risk of developing brain cancer will likely increase monitoring and decrease mortality.

The study included 63 authors from more than 20 global institutions due to the large amount of data needed to validate the findings.

“Gliomas, while the most common type of malignant brain tumor in adults, are very rare, hence multi-site collaborations are necessary in order to have scientifically valid sample sizes,” Dr Barnholz-Sloan said.

In the study, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of published genome-wide associations, which search DNA sequence data for regions linked to disease risk. These studies are able to determine which DNA sequence molecules are altered in individuals with a certain disease.

Prior research has implicated 13 locations in DNA that increase the risk of developing glioma. The current study doubles the number, with 5 additional locations for glioblastoma and 8 for non-glioblastoma.

“A meta-analysis was needed because we wanted to analyze data from the most studies possible,” Dr Barnholtz-Sloan said.

The authors analyzed data from 12,496 patients with gliomas — 6191 glioblastomas and 5819 non-glioblastomas – and 18,190 patients without gliomas, according to the study.

These newly-identified genetic risk factors could be used to determine which patients are most at risk of developing subtypes of glioma, which have different prognoses. This information has the potential to be used by physicians to diagnose and treat high-risk patients earlier, the study concluded.