Genetic Studies Identify Critical Biomarkers and Refine the Classification of Malignant Gliomas

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Killela, Patrick J.


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Gliomagenesis is driven by a complex network of genetic alterations and while the glioma genome has been a focus of investigation for many years; critical gaps in our knowledge of this disease remain. The identification of novel molecular biomarkers remains a focus of the greater cancer community as a method to improve the consistency and accuracy of pathological diagnosis. In addition, novel molecular biomarkers are drastically needed for the identification of targets that may ultimately result in novel therapeutics aimed at improving glioma treatment. Through the identification of new biomarkers, laboratories will focus future studies on the molecular mechanisms that underlie glioma development. Here, we report a series of genomic analyses identifying novel molecular biomarkers in multiple histopathological subtypes of glioma and refine the classification of malignant gliomas. We have completed a large scale analysis of the WHO grade II-III astrocytoma exome and report frequent mutations in the chromatin modifier, alpha thalassemia mental retardation x-linked (ATRX), isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 (IDH1 and IDH2), and mutations in tumor protein 53 (TP53) as the most frequent genetic mutations in low grade astrocytomas. Furthermore, by analyzing the status of recurrently mutated genes in 363 brain tumors, we establish that highly recurrent gene mutational signatures are an effective tool in stratifying homogeneous patient populations into distinct groups with varying outcomes, thereby capable of predicting prognosis. Next, we have established mutations in the promoter of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) as a frequent genetic event in gliomas and in tissues with low rates of self renewal. We identify TERT promoter mutations as the most frequently mutated gene in primary glioblastoma. Additionally, we show that TERT promoter mutations in combination with IDH1 and IDH2 mutations are able to delineate distinct clinical tumor cohorts and are capable of predicting median overall survival more effectively than standard histopathological diagnosis alone. Taken together, these data advance our understanding of the genetic alterations that underlie the transformation of glial cells into neoplasms and we provide novel genetic biomarkers and multi – gene mutational signatures that can be utilized to refine the classification of malignant gliomas and provide opportunity for improved diagnosis.






Killela, Patrick J. (2014). Genetic Studies Identify Critical Biomarkers and Refine the Classification of Malignant Gliomas. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from

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