A UCSF-led team of scientists has identified for the first time that progenitor rather than neural stem cells underly a type of glioma called oligodendroglioma. This distinction explains why oligodendroglioma is more responsive to therapy than other brain tumors such as glioblastoma multiforme.
The finding is significant, the researchers say, because it gives cancer doctors and researchers new cellular pathways to target in developing therapies. It also updates current beliefs -- that brain tumors derive from neural stem cells -- with the indication that, since oligodendroglioma derives from progenitor cells, stem cell-specific therapies may not hold promise for treating those types of brain tumors.
Different life expectancies for two types of brain tumors were what first piqued the scientists' interest.
"With treatment, patients with oligodendroglioma can live many years longer than patients with gliobastoma multiforme. For two types of tumor that appear similar, the outcome is so different. We were interested in understanding this," said William A. Weiss, MD, PhD, corresponding author and professor in the Departments of Neurology, Pediatrics and Neurological Surgery.
"There has been a great deal of research into the molecular basis of glial tumors, but current therapies have not advanced much. Many remain ineffective and the majority of patients die from the disease, so fresh strategies are desperately needed. The ability we now have to sub-classify tumors and differentiate gliomas based on differences in cell of origin will be helpful in the search for more effective treatments," Weiss added.
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