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Scientists identify risk factors for glioma subtypes

Researchers conducted the largest malignant brain tumor study to date, finding genetic markers of glioma, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer.

By Amy Wallace
Scientists identify risk factors for glioma subtypes
Researchers have identified genetic markers for two subtypes of glioblastoma, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. Photo by sfam_photo/Shutterstock

March 27 (UPI) -- A team of international researchers led by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have identified genetic markers for two subtypes of glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Nearly 24,000 people will be diagnosed with malignant brain tumors in 2017, and 17,000 will die from them. The most common and deadly form of brain cancer is glioblastoma, which has a five-year survival rate of less than 6 percent.

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For the study, researchers analyzed millions of genetic variants using genome-wide association analysis to scan for markers on complete genomes from nearly 12,500 patients with glioma and 18,000 healthy individuals.

"Until now our understanding of the risks of developing glioma has been limited," Dr. Melissa Bondy, professor of medicine, associate director of population sciences at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a press release. "In this work we confirmed 13 previously identified markers and uncovered 13 new genetic markers associated with this aggressive disease. We now have a more comprehensive genetic profile of the disease spectrum that expands our understanding of glioma susceptibility."

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The genetic markers identified in the study were linked to higher susceptibility for developing brain tumors, however, each genetic marker gave just a modest increase in risk, according to researchers.

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"This work has revealed a set of genetic factors that are involved in glioma development," said Dr. Beatrice Melin, professor and head of the Regional Cancer Center North at Umea University in Sweden. "Understanding how glioma develops opens the possibility for developing better surveillance, diagnostics and treatment."

The study was published in Nature Genetics.

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